A cell model is a three-dimensional model that shows the parts of a plant or animal cell. You can make a cell model out of household items, or you can buy a few simple items to create a fun and educational project.
Method 1 of 4: Investigate Cell Models
Step 1. Decide if you will make a cell from a plant or an animal
The shape of each cell is different, so the materials you need depend on what type of cell you build.
Step 2. Study the parts of a plant cell
You will have to understand what each part of the cell looks like and what work it does for the cell. Generally, plant cells are larger than animal cells and are rectangular or cubic in shape.
- There are good pictures of the parts of a plant cell online.
- The main distinguishing feature of a plant cell is that, unlike an animal cell, it is surrounded by a thick and rigid cell wall.
Step 3. Study the parts of an animal cell
Unlike plant cells, animal cells do not have a cell wall. Animal cells can be of various sizes and can have irregular shapes. Most cells vary in size (around 1 to 100 microns) and are only visible with the help of a microscope.
There are also good pictures of the parts of an animal cell online
Method 2 of 4: Make a Jelly Model
Step 1. Gather your supplies
To make a gelatin cell you will need:
- A lemon jelly or no flavor
- A light-colored fruit juice (if you use unflavored gelatin)
- Various candies and fruits. For example: raisins, gummy worms (normal and sour), gummies, jelly beans, grapes, orange and tangerine segments, sprinkles, M & M’s, jaw breakers, dried fruit and lozenges. Avoid using marshmallows as they will float to the surface of the gelatin.
- A large resealable plastic bag
- A spoon
- A large bowl or container
- Access to a stove or microwave oven
- Access to a refrigerator
Step 2. Make the gelatin, but with less water than the instructions indicate
This will make the gelatin stiffer, making it easier for parts of the cell to stay in place.
- Heat the water to the boiling point using ¾ of what is indicated in the instructions. Dissolve the gelatin in hot water and stir it carefully. Add the same amount of cold water for the mixture.
- If you are using unflavored gelatin, add the fruit juice to the gelatin instead of the water to give the gelatin a bright color.
- The gelatin will represent the cytoplasm of the cell.
Step 3. Place the plastic bag in a sturdy container, such as a large bowl or saucepan
Slowly pour the cold gelatin into the bag.
- Make sure there is room in the bag for all the cell components that will be added later.
- Seal the bag and put it in the refrigerator.
Step 4. Wait until the gelatin is almost ready (about an hour)
Then, take the bag out of the fridge and open it.
Step 5. Add a variety of candies to the jelly bag to represent the parts of a cell
Make sure to use candies that are similar in color and shape to the components of a real cell.
Keep in mind that if you make a plant cell, you will need to add a cell membrane around the caramel jelly (for example, Twizzlers or Pixie Sticks)
Step 6. Create a key that shows the correspondence between the parts of the cell and the candies
You may need to make a card with one piece of each candy attached to the card, or you can create labels with the name of the part of the cell and attach them to each candy.
Step 7. Re-seal the gelatin pattern when complete and return it to the refrigerator
This will allow the gelatin to be fully set, creating a strong cell pattern.
Feel free to take photos of the jelly model and then eat it
Method 3 of 4: Make a Cake Model
Step 1. Gather the ingredients
To make a cake model, you will need:
- A cake mix (as well as the ingredients to make the mix)
- A vanilla frosting
- A food coloring (your choice)
- Various candies to represent organelles (for example: Blue and Pink Mike and Ike, Warheads, Airheads, Acid Gummy Worms, and Sprinkles)
- Some toothpicks
- Some labels
Step 2. Make the cake in a saucepan (based on the type of cell you want)
Use a round cake pan for an animal cell and a rectangular pan for a plant cell.
- Follow the package directions to bake the cake. You can also set aside some of the dough to make a cupcake (which will represent the core).
- Let the cake cool completely, then remove it from the saucepan. Place it on the cake board.
- If you prefer a taller cell model, you can also make two 9-inch (23-centimeter) cakes to put on top of each other.
Step 3. Cover the cake
Dye the vanilla frosting with the food coloring, based on the color or colors you would like to use to represent the components of the cell.
- One option is to make separate colored frostings to represent the different layers of the cell. For example, to make a cell of an animal, you can use yellow frosting to represent the cytoplasm and red frosting on the cupcake to represent the nucleus.
- If you make a cell from a plant, you can make colored frosting to distinguish the cell wall and spread it over the sides of the cake.
Step 4. Place the candies on the cake to represent the organelle
It can be helpful to have a printout or picture of the cell to identify the components as you place them on the cake. An example of good candies to use as components for an animal cell are:
- Some pink Mike and Ike candies for the smooth endoplasmic reticulum
- Some blue Mike and Ike candies for the mitochondria
- A few sprinkles for ribosomes
- Airheads for rough endoplasmic reticulum
- A few acid gum worms for the Golgi apparatus
- Warheads for vacuoles
Step 5. Put toothpicks on the cake with labels for each part of the cell
Write the labels on a computer. Cut each label and tape them to the toothpicks before placing them on the cake near the corresponding cell component.
Take photos of the cake model and then eat it
Method 4 of 4: Make a Clay Model
Step 1. Gather your supplies
To make a clay model of a cell, you will need:
- A small or medium styrofoam ball
- A pack of colored clay (you can use Crayola's Play Doh or Model Magic)
- Some toothpicks
- Some labels
Step 2. Cut the Styrofoam ball in half
The size of the ball you use depends on how detailed you want to make the parts.
Keep in mind that a Styrofoam ball will give you more space and flexibility to work
Step 3. Cover the flat side of the Styrofoam ball with clay
If you want to make the top of the ball a certain color, you can cover half of the ball completely with clay.
Step 4. Make the different parts of the cell from various colors of clay
It may be helpful to have a printout or image of the cell to ensure that all components are represented.
- Make sure to use different colors of clay for each component (this way you can tell them apart).
- Add the components to the flat side of the Styrofoam using toothpicks.
- If you make a cell from a plant, remember to add a cell wall to your model.
Step 5. Attach labels to the parts of the cell
You can do this by taping the labels to the toothpicks or pins and attaching them to the foam ball next to the component that corresponds to it.