Whether your child needs a science project for school or you just want to teach your kids about biology, building an animal cell model is an educational activity that will serve both purposes. With just a few materials that can be gathered from around the home, an animal cell model can be created in only a couple of hours. Different parts of the animal cell, called organelles, include the nucleus and nucleolus, centrosome, microtubules, lysosomes, mitochondria, Golgi apparatus, vacuoles, secretory vesicles, peroxisomes, rough and smooth reticulum, microfilaments and the cell membrane.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Large, clear plastic bowl
- Cardboard sheet
- Pink craft paint
- Medium-sized paintbrush
- Glue gun
- Glue sticks
- Brown yarn
- Serrated knife
- Styrofoam ball
- Blue craft paint
- Black craft paint
- Plastic container
- Blue yarn
- Corrugated cardboard
- Small black beads
- Regular cardboard
- Macaroni noodles
- Egg noodles
- 1 medium-sized, clear rubber ball
- 1 small, clear rubber ball
- White mat board
- Red paint
- Small paintbrush
- Red M&M's
- Blue M&M's
Place the plastic bowl over the cardboard sheet and trace around it with the pencil.
Cut around the lines. This will be the gluing base of the cell model.
Paint the circular cardboard piece pink and let it dry. The pink paint represents cytosol, a liquid composed of water and metabolic proteins where the organelles float.
Cut the styrofoam ball in half with the knife. The ball will act as the nucleus, or the "brain centre" of the cell, so make it the largest organelle inside the cell.
Paint the nucleus blue.
Mix about two parts black paint with about four parts blue paint into the plastic container and paint a solid circle into the middle of the nucleus. This is the nucleolus, which is important for protein synthesis. Let it dry.
Cut several 1-inch pieces of blue yarn and glue them to the flat part on the nucleus. These are the chromatins, made up of DNA and neighbouring proteins.
Glue the nucleus to the cell model base on the lower left-hand side. Leave about 2 inches between the nucleus and the end of the cell base.
Cut out five rectangular pieces of corrugated cardboard and curve them slightly. They should look like parentheses.
Stack the pieces on top of each other and glue them together. This is the rough endoplasmic reticulum.
Glue several small black beads along the top edges of the rough endoplasmic reticulum. These are ribosomes, which are created by the nucleolus and are the site of protein synthesis.
Repeat Steps 1 through 3 to create another rough endoplasmic reticulum.
Glue one of the structures curving around the top of the nucleus, and one curving around the bottom left of the nucleus. Leave a small amount of space in between the structures and the nucleus.
Cut out one large rectangle of regular cardboard, then two smaller pieces of varying sizes.
Curve the pieces slightly in the same manner as Step 1 in the Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum section.
Snap a toothpick in half and stick one end through the middle of the right side of the larger cardboard rectangle. Then push the other end of the toothpick through the middle of one of the smaller pieces. Repeat this step for the other side of the larger rectangle using the other half of the toothpick.
Glue the smooth endoplasmic reticulum so that it curves around the rough endoplasmic reticulum located above the nucleus. Leave a small amount of space in between the structures.
Stack about five to eight egg noodles on top of each other and glue them together. This is the Golgi apparatus, which helps transport macromolecules. Glue the long ends of the stacked egg noodles near the right side of the nucleus.
Glue the macaroni noodles end to end in a V-shape. This is the centrosome, also called the microtubule organising centre. Glue this near the right side of the nucleus.
Glue a few scattered macaroni noodles around the Golgi. These are the microtubules, which are protein filaments that help keep the cell's shape.
Glue the clear rubber balls next to each other near the upper right-hand side of the Golgi. Leave a small amount of space in between the rubber balls. These are the vacuoles, which release cellular waste.
Cut two small ovals out of the white mat board. They should be no larger than the nucleolus. Use the small paintbrush to draw red squiggles on the ovals. These are the mitochondrion, which provide energy to the cell.
Glue a few red M&M's with the "M" side down somewhere above the microtubules. These are the lysosomes, which are vital for intracellular digestion.
Glue a few blue M&M's with the "M" side down between the Golgi apparatus and the nucleus. These are the secretory vesicles, which hold cell secretions such as neurotransmitters and hormones.
Glue a few Altoids somewhere between the microtubules and the mitochondrion. These are the peroxisomes, which protect the cell from hydrogen peroxide produced by white blood cells.
Glue long strands of yarn around the inside of the bowl in a squiggly pattern. The yarn will act as the microfilaments that are part of the cytoskeleton, while the bowl itself will be the cell membrane.
Cover the cell with the plastic bowl. When the inner parts of the cell need to be seen, remove the "cell membrane."
Tips and warnings
- Make small labels for each part and use a glue stick to glue them next to the appropriate organelle.
- Use caution when operating a hot glue gun. The tip of the gun is extremely hot, and the glue can burn your fingers when melted.
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