How to make a 3D animal or plant cell

Written by ticara gailliard
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For many school students, the time will come when they need to create a 3-D model of a plant or animal cell. Teachers often assign 3-D cell model making to give students a hands-on lesson that can help them remember the cell parts more easily. Making a cell model is a simple project, but more adventurous students can create a more detailed cross-section of cells using a variety of different materials.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Styrofoam balls
  • Clay dough
  • Cell parts list
  • Craft glue

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  1. 1

    Plan out the model parts for each cell part. Having notes of what material you will need for each part will help you when shopping for your materials. For the simplest 3-D cell model, you can construct most of the parts out of different colours of clay dough and the basic shape of the cell from styrofoam.

  2. 2

    Purchase your materials. You may want to buy extra materials in case you accidentally mess up with creating a model or model part. Appropriate places to search for materials include craft stores or outlet stores, where you can buy material in bulk for a relatively low price.

  3. 3

    Carve out the cell shape from your styrofoam. Plant and animal cells have different shapes so pay close attention to what cell you're making. For plant cells, make your styrofoam into a more rectangular shape; animal cells are circular. Having several pieces of styrofoam can help in case improperly cut the shape. Ensure you allot the appropriate amount of space for the cell parts -- either by cutting out a cross-section or making the model a top-down view of the cell.

  4. 4

    Begin moulding your clay dough into the shapes of various cell parts. Use different colours so that the parts are easily identifiable. For instance, the golgi body and the rough endoplasmic reticulum have similar looks, so colour code them to ease confusion. Since the golgi body has a platelike structure, you can flatten the dough into one long section and then curve it in up and down like a snake. Adding little dots of dough throughout a second structure can act as the rough endoplasmic reticulum. Both plant and animal cells need to have: cell membrane; vacuole; nucleus; nucleolus; mitochondria; smooth endoplasmic reticulum; rough endoplasmic reticulum; golgi apparatus; centrosome; ribosomes; and cytoplasm.

    Despite the many common cell components, both animal and plant cell structures differ. For example, animal cells feature lysosomes, while plant cells have chloroplasts and a cell wall.

  5. 5

    Attach your parts to your styrofoam base. A strong glue is needed since styrofoam is a difficult surface for things to adhere to. The Dow Crafting website suggests a low-temperature glue gun or spray adhesive. Or look for styrofoam Glue, a glue specifically designed for use with styrofoam, at craft stores.

  6. 6

    Create a legend identifying each part of the cell. Having a legend will help you keep track of what part is what and show that you have included each necessary part of the cell.

Tips and warnings

  • For a model that stands out, choose materials that aren't standard. For instance, create parts out of food, gelatin, board game pieces or anything else that may give an edge. Many times, teachers reward students that go an extra step beyond a simple clay model.

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