Cell model project ideas

Written by john brennan
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Cell model project ideas
All living organisms from humans to slime moulds are composed of cells. (cells 72 image by chrisharvey from Fotolia.com)

Many basic biology courses in high school and middle school ask students to make a model of a cell. Depending on how much time you have to invest, these kinds of projects can not only be informative but fun as well. There are lots of different models you can make -- here are a few ideas to help you get started.

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A jello model cell can be tricky to make, but once finished it's a treat both to eat and to behold. You can find gelatin at your local supermarket; buy a mixture that's either light in colour or clear and unflavored. If you buy an unflavored brand, you'll want to add sugar or juice to lend it some flavour. Mix the gelatin according to the instructions on the package and use slightly less water than directed so the gelatin will be a little stiff. Once it's mixed, wait until it's cool then pour it into a large plastic bag like a 1-gallon ziplock bag, then place it in the refrigerator. Wait until it's almost set then remove it and add candies to represent the cell components -- M&Ms might be lysosomes, gummy worms might be the Golgi apparatus and so on -- then return it to the refrigerator to set completely.


Another way to make a cell model is to mould it out of Play Doh or plasticine. Both materials are available from many toy stores or craft and hobby stores. Try to choose a different colour for each component of the cell so they can be easily distinguished -- yellow for the cytoplasm, blue for the nucleus and so on. Alternatively, if you have only one colour of Play Doh or plasticine available, you can mould the cytoplasm from plasticine and insert objects or items that symbolise each of the cell components -- a golf ball to represent the nucleus, for example, or a rubber band to represent the ER. You might choose objects that represent either the structure or the function of each component, depending on the guidelines for the project.


Styrofoam is another material that will work well for your cell model. You can buy half-spheres of styrofoam at many arts and craft stores; alternatively, buy a block of styrofoam and cut it to size. If the styrofoam already has a colour you like, you can keep the original colour or spraypaint it instead. Try making cell components out of modelling clay -- that way you won't need glue or toothpicks to affix them to the styrofoam, although you can use glue if you need to make sure a particular component sticks on properly. You can also use tooth picks or pins to attach labels to each component if required by the project guidelines.

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