A plant cell model has many small parts, but is not complicated to build. The model described is made of all non-toxic materials, and is light and easily transportable. The scale is also easy to manage, and the finished project will be less than 12 inches (30cm) across. The parts of a cell that most middle school students need to know are the cell wall, cell membrane, vacuole, chloroplasts, mitochondria, golgi complex, endoplasmic reticulum (ER), ribosomes, nucleus, nucleolus and the nuclear membrane.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Green corrugated paper (notice board border)
- Red and blue construction paper
- Large and small coloured marshmallows
- Red and green jelly beans
- Small hot-dog-shaped balloon
- 5 to 6 tiny candies, such as Nerds
- 2 different colours string
- Hot glue gun
Cut a strip of green corrugated paper about 4 feet in length. Glue the ends together so that it forms a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Use hot glue to attach this loop to the posterboard so that it looks like a small fence, standing up in the centre of the board. This leaves room to accommodate labels for the parts. The stiff green board represents the cell wall, differentiating this from an animal cell.
Cut a piece of blue construction paper the same size as the green corrugated paper, and use hot glue to attach to the inside of the green fence. This represents the cell membrane.
Blow up the small hot-dog-shaped balloon to about 6 inches in length and attach to the posterboard inside the cell membrane. This should be placed near an edge of the cell, leaving the centre open. This represents the vacuole, another part that animal cells do not have, which helps the cell maintain its shape.
Glue three green jelly beans in random spots near the left side of the cell. Placing them on the same side of the cell will make labelling easier. These represent the chloroplasts, the part of the cell that contains chlorophyll, which makes plants green.
Glue three red jelly beans in random spots on the right side of the cell. These represent the mitochondria, which convert energy inside the cell.
Cut a small slit in a large coloured marshmallow. Insert a different colour mini marshmallow in the slit, and glue in the centre of the model. This represents the large nucleus, and the smaller nucleolus, the "brain" of the cell.
Make a small loop of red construction paper, just large enough to surround the big marshmallow. This represents the nuclear membrane, and should be slipped around the marshmallow, but only glued to the posterboard. Too much glue on the marshmallow can make it melt.
Place a dollop of hot glue on an open spot inside the model, and sprinkle the tiny candies there. These represent the ribosomes which make protein for the cell.
Make a small tangle of about 6 inches of one colour string, and attach it next to the nucleus. This represents the endoplasmic reticulum, where enzymes are stored and chemical reactions occur.
Place another dollop of hot glue on an open spot in the model, and lay a 6-inch piece of string on top of it in a repeated S-shape. This represents a golgi body, which packs up protein and carbohydrates for transport.
Tips and warnings
- Use paper tags and pieces of string leading to different parts to make labels for your cell parts.
- Hot glue should be used with caution or parental supervision. Although it cools quickly, it can blister skin when very hot.
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