How to build an animal cell or plant cell model

Written by dawn walls-thumma
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How to build an animal cell or plant cell model
A cell model helps you to visualise the structure of the cell. (Getty Creative)

Cells are the biological bases of life, acting as tiny factories that drive the growth and basic life processes of living organisms. Inside cells are tiny structures called organelles that do the cell's work: Replicating genetic material, producing biochemicals and protecting the cell from harm. Although plant cells and animals cells differ in several important respects, they also share many basic structures due to common evolutionary ancestors. Visualising and understanding the relationships between the parts of the cell often requires students to build a model of one or both types of cells.

Things you need

  • Shoebox (plant cell only)
  • Mesh cloth (plant cell only)
  • Balloon (plant cell only)
  • Sellotape
  • Straight pins
  • Green jelly beans
  • Polystyrene foam ball, 30-cm (12-inch) diameter (animal cell only)
  • Pipe cleaners (animal cell only)
  • Knife
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Styrofoam ball, 10-cm (4-inch) diameter
  • Marble
  • Ribbon
  • Seed beads
  • Cardboard circles, 13-mm (1/2-inch) diameter
  • Dried beans

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    Plant cell

  1. 1

    Line the shoebox with mesh. The shoebox corresponds to the rigid cell wall, while the mesh signifies the cell membrane, through which materials pass in and out of the cell.

  2. 2

    Blow up the balloon and secure it into the middle of the shoebox with a rolled piece of tape. The balloon represents the vacuole, a storage structure that can occupy 80 per cent or more of the cell.

  3. 3

    Punch the straight pins carefully through the sides of the box and affix a green jelly bean onto the tip of each. These represent the chloroplasts, green structures that convert sunlight to sugar. A single cell may have thousands of chloroplasts.

    Animal cell

  1. 1

    Cut in half and carefully hollow out the large foam ball. Animal cells lack cell walls but do have cell membranes, allowing them to assume a greater variety of shapes.

  2. 2

    Bundle together nine pipe cleaners to signify the centrioles. You will locate these near the nucleus once you create it in the next section.

  3. 3

    Insert pipe cleaners into the outside of the polystyrene foam ball, if desired, to represent the cilia and flagella that cause some animal cells to move.

    All cells

  1. 1

    Cut the small foam ball carefully, cutting halfway across in one direction and making a second cut perpendicular to the first, allowing you to remove one quarter of the ball. Press the marble into the centre of the ball, gluing it into place, if necessary. Set the ball inside the cell, securing it with a piece of rolled tape. This represents the nucleus--which occupies about 10 per cent of plant and animal cells--and the nucleolus inside it. If you are constructing an animal cell, locate your centrioles around the nucleus.

  2. 2

    Glue beads representing lysosomes to the ribbon, fold the ribbon multiple times and glue it into place beside the nucleus. This represents the endoplasmic reticulum. Glue several cardboard circles together and place them beside the endoplasmic reticulum to represent the Golgi apparatus.

  3. 3

    Insert pins into the side of the cell and carefully press the dried beans onto them. These denote the mitochondria, the powerhouse of both plant and animal cells.

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