How to make a 3D model plant cell without food

Updated July 19, 2017

The plant cell and animal cell have a few major differences. Plant cells have a cell wall and chloroplasts while animal cells have neither. To emphasise the difference between the two, students can build a model of a plant cell.

Building this model will encourage hands-on learning. It will help students gain a better understanding of cell structure and they will have better memory retention than if they only read the textbook. A cell model also helps students visualise the cell and cell components in a 3D manner.

Lay a layer of cling film in the plastic container so that it covers all the sides and extends out the top about 2.5 cm (1 inch). This represents the cellular membrane.

Knead the white clay until it is soft and pliable. Insert this in the plastic container so that it covers the sides and bottom of the container. You will need to have some left over to fill in around the other organelles.

Roll a ball of purple clay about the size of a plum. This will be the nucleus.

Wrap the nucleus in cling film to represent the nuclear membrane.

Roll a small 1 cm (or half-inch) ball of orange clay. This will represent the centrosome.

Make five bean-shaped pieces out of red clay. Use a toothpick to create grooves in the surface. It should resemble a raisin when done. These represent the mitochondria.

Roll flat a strip of yellow clay. It should be 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide and 12.5 cm (5 inches) long. Fold the clay back and forth over itself, layering it. This will be the Golgi body.

Cut a 30 cm (one foot) long piece of yarn into two 15 cm (6-inch) sections.

Dip one section in a 50/50 glue and water mixture and then dip it into the seed beads. This section of yarn will be the rough endoplasmic reticulum, while the non-dipped section with be the smooth endoplasmic reticulum.

Roll 12 one centimetre (or half-inch) diameter balls of green clay.

Flatten these balls to resemble pancakes.

Stack three "pancakes" into a pile. Each pile represents a single chloroplast--for a total of four chloroplasts.

Carefully place all the clay and yarn organelles in the white clay. They should be spaced out along the entire cell. Consult drawing to get an idea of locations.

Add the air pack or plastic baggie filled with air. This will represent the vacuole.

Add white clay in the empty spaces, being careful not to cover any organelles.

Sprinkle seed beads in small clusters in several places throughout the clay cytoplasm to represent the ribosomes.


Draw a key or stick labelled toothpicks into your model to identify the different parts.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic container, square or rectangular in shape
  • Cling film
  • Shipping air pack or empty plastic zip-lock back (for air)
  • Six different colours of clay (white, green, purple, red, yellow, orange)
  • Seed beads, any colour
  • 30 cm (1-foot) section of yarn, any colour
  • Craft glue
  • Small bowl
  • Toothpicks
  • Rolling pin
  • Knife
  • Scissors
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About the Author

Christine Jonard is a writer/editor who has been published in several textbooks. Since 2003, she has written feature articles for middle and high school biology textbooks, middle school earth sciences and general biology labs. She has copy-edited textbooks through final pages. She has a B.A. in English, a B.S. in zoology and a B.S. in psychology, all from the Ohio State University.