How to make an easy plant cell model

Updated July 19, 2017

Creating and using visual models in science can help reinforce the learning of a particular subject. A scientific plant cell model can be made with clay and craft paints based on available visual science reference materials. Make the parts of the cell individually and allow time for each to dry before painting and attaching with craft glue. Common household items such as cellophane enhances a model's structure.

Mould a flat square base with the clay. The base allows the individual pieces of the cell parts to have a surface to rest on or attach to.

Create four cell walls with the clay, and attach these to the outer four edges of the square. Seal the wall edge to the base and the corners between walls by lightly pinching with your fingers. The walls need only be tall enough to enable a piece of cellophane to be stretched across their top, enclosing the cell contents.

Mould a large egg-shaped piece of clay that will sit in the centre of the cell and represent the cell's vacuole, the cell's water reservoir.

Roll a small piece of clay into a ball to create a nucleus. Place it to the right of the vacuole. Cut the ball in half to expose the inner nucleolus, which can be represented by creating a raised spherical shape at the centre of the nucleus (similar to the pit in a peach).

Roll small snakelike pieces to create the rough endoplasmic reticulum that wraps around the nucleus in a tightly gathered formation. The smooth endoplasmic reticulum is thinner than the rough type and has a light coloured cap on the end that faces the nucleus. The smooth reticulum is placed in loosely scattered method around the area where the rough reticulum is. The smooth reticulum stretches toward the nucleus in what looks like a fanned shape.

Create a small brain-like shape to represent the golgi apparatus and place it to the left of the vacuole. Mould small flattened oval structures that will represent the multiple mitochondria and chloroplasts within the cell's clear cytoplasm. Make three or four of each type and place them around the existing structures.

Roll out tiny beadlike balls of clay to create the ribosomes and the slightly larger peroxisomes that also reside throughout the cell's cytoplasm. Make five to ten B.B.-pellet-size balls for the ribosomes and five to ten pearl-size balls for the peroxisomes. Scatter these throughout the cell interior.

Bake or air dry the clay model pieces, depending of the type of clay used. After they have cooled and hardened, paint the parts. Paint the cell wall structure a deep green colour. Differentiate the nuclear envelope and the nucleolus by using a dark and light shade of the same colour. Do the same for the rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum, as well as the ribosomes and peroxisomes. Paint chloroplasts green as they represent the plants chlorophyll production and visible colour. Use as many colours as necessary to create a bold contrast between the plant's different parts.

Glue a large piece of clear cellophane to the inside of the cell wall and base and spread the glue evenly over the surface to make sure the piece will stay attached. This represents the cell's plasma membrane. Glue the rest of the cell parts inside the cell wall area and allow to dry. Label and tag the plant cell and its parts with small pieces of tape and a marker.

Things You'll Need

  • Air drying or bakeable clay
  • Craft paints
  • Craft glue
  • Cellophane
  • Visual reference materials
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About the Author

After completing his college screenwriting studies David Slate began work with an animal welfare organization creating educational materials. Then traveling abroad, he taught English in Prague for two years. In 2005 he moved to New York City and works in media production as a fine artist and designer. Also a playwright, his short works have been in local New York City festivals.