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Directions for Making a 3D Model of a Cell

Updated April 17, 2017

Cell models are fun and interesting when showcased in a 3-dimensional project. Create an attractive and detailed 3D model of a cell using a styrofoam craft ball, household materials and craft paint.

Slice a segment from the styrofoam sphere to create a cross-section. Use the knife to cut halfway through the sphere from the top to middle. Join that incision by cutting halfway through the sphere from the side to middle. Release the segment. The cut-out segment should create a void in the sphere that represents about 25 per cent or 1/4 the size of the complete sphere.

With the exposed core of the cell facing to the side, place three or four toothpicks in the bottle of the styrofoam sphere. This will create a stand for your cell model, and keep it from rolling.

Paint the outside portion of the cell one colour of your choice. This outer layer of your cell represents the cell membrane. Paint the inside of the cell a different colour. This inner colour will represent the cytoplasm.

Use hot glue to adhere the bouncy ball into the middle of the inside of the cell model. This will represent the cell's nucleus. Paint dots on the outside of the ball to simulate nuclear pores.

Hot-glue four to five kidney beans in the cytoplasm to represent the mitochondria, or powerhouse of the cell. Paint swirls on the kidney beans to represent the cristae, or inner matrix of the mitochondria.

Roll clay into two thin snakes about 3 inches long, and hot-glue each snake in a squiggly pattern within the cytoplasm of the cell model. These will represent the Golgi bodies of the cell.

Hot-glue small buttons in the cytoplasm of the cell to represent vacuoles and lysosomes. Paint all the vacuoles one colour, and the lysosomes another, to differentiate between the two organelles.

Create two small pancake shapes from two different colours of clay. Affix each shape to the cytoplasm of the model using hot glue. These will represent the rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum. To differentiate between the two, paint spots on the rough endoplasmic reticulum to simulate ribosomes.

Tip

To label all of your organelles on your 3D model, create flags from small pieces of paper and toothpicks. Write the name of the organelle on the flag and stick it into the corresponding model.

Warning

Only adults should use the knife.

Things You'll Need

  • 10-inch or 12-inch white styrofoam ball
  • Knife
  • Varying colours of acrylic craft paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Toothpicks
  • Small rubber bouncy ball
  • Hot glue and gun
  • Dry kidney beans
  • Clay
  • Buttons, beads, bottle caps, or other odds and ends to represent cell organelles
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About the Author

Ana Ulrich's passions are environmental education, environmental advocacy, and natural science. She is a highly certified science teacher and professional writer, editor and subject matter expert in her field. In her spare time, she is always outdoors; focusing on building strong relationships between the community and natural ecosystems.