How to Model a Cell With Modeling Clay

Written by aksana nikolai
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How to Model a Cell With Modeling Clay

Most beginner level biology or life science courses will cover the cell, teaching students about its various parts. Students will often be asked to produce cell models to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. Using modelling clay allows students to create a bird's eye view of cell's structure out of simple circles and coils in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours. At the end of the course, students can keep the model as a reminder of their learning experience.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Modelling clay in different colours
  • Rolling pin
  • Clay knife or craft knife

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  1. 1

    Flatten a piece of play with a rolling pin. Use a clay or craft knife cut a circle out of the flattened piece. This portion will represent the cell's cytoplasm.

  2. 2

    Roll a piece of clay into a long coil. Wrap this coil around the circumference of the circle to model the cell membrane.

  3. 3

    Repeat steps two and three on a smaller scale. Place this small circle and coil, which represent the nucleus and nuclear membrane, in the centre of the large circle.

  4. 4

    Make an even smaller circle, in a new colour, to place at the centre of the nucleus. This will be the nucleolus.

  5. 5

    Place several clusters of clay dots, representing ribosomes, onto randomly spaced locations on the main circle.

  6. 6

    Create mitochondria by flattening a piece of clay and use the knife to cut out two or three oval shapes. Make thin coils and place one on top of each oval so that it zigzags from one side to the other.

  7. 7

    Make two or three long coils. Place them in a zigzagging pattern around the nucleus to model the smooth endoplasmic reticulum (ER).

  8. 8

    Place small clay dots on one or two of the smooth ER to represent the rough ER.

  9. 9

    Flatten another piece of clay. Cut out several small "8" shaped pieces. Place them in a cluster by the cell membrane to represent the Golgi apparatus.

  10. 10

    Cut medium sized circles out of another flattened piece of clay. Distribute these around the cytoplasm to model lysosomes.

Tips and warnings

  • The more different colours you use to represent various parts of the cell, the clearer the model will be.
  • Build the model on a tray lined with wax paper or aluminium foil in order to facilitate moving the project and cleaning up.

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