Intro: 3D Cell Model Project
This is a lesson for high school Biology students (usually Freshmen and Sophomores) who are studying the cellular unit. The topic of this lesson is cell parts/organelles and the functions they serve.
LEARNING OBJECTIVE/ instructional objective: Usingclass notes, students will each construct a 3D representation of a cell with 10 labeled cell parts.
This project is part of a larger lesson. My videos refer to a song/poem the students will be asked to write and other options for 3D cell models. This instructable is on how to make the example model: the fruit bowl version.
References (for the attatched handouts)
Armstrong, W. P. (2001) “Comparison Of Plant & Animal Cells.” Retrieved from
Step 1: Gather Materials
-Handouts on cell structure-
-A clear mixing/tupperware bowl
-A few raspberries
-Two cereal marshmallows
-A couple chocolates
-A permanent marker
-Clear (or very light-colored) gelatin mix (I would pre-mix and semi-cool the mix before giving it to students to save time/confusion)
Step 2: Cutting Fruit
In this step, we are going to make the nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum, and vessicles.
-Peel a banana and cut it into quarters lengthwise.
-Attatch raisins to two quarters. This can be tricky. Try creating depression in the banana with the tip of a pencil and pressing raisins into the depressions.
Cut a quarter out of the orange.
Cut apple into roughly one-inch cubes (each student will need about 3 pieces).
Step 3: Place Nucleus, ER, and Golgi Complex
Take the larger segment of orange and use the permanant marker to draw dots on its outer surface. These represent nuclear pores. Pour a drop of food coloring onto the center of the orange. This represents the nucleolus.
It gets a little complicated to describe with words only here, so save yourself a headache and watch the video.
Place the orange off to one side in your mixing bowl (aka cell membrane) and wrap one of your banana slices with raisins around it (as much as possible). The rough ER surrounds the nucleus, but let's not get into crazy complicated manuvers. Write a little note to yourself if you like, but it's going to be OK.
Lay the other banana slice with raisins in the cell so that one end or edge is touching the first one (the ER is connected and the rough ER runs through much of the cell). Break a non-raisin banana slice in half and lay it in the cell so that the halves touch eachother and one touches the first raisin slice (the one wrapped around the orange). I ate the fourth banana slice. Yum.
Grab the quarter of the orange you cut out earlier and remove the peel, keeping the mebrane-bound fruit together as much as possbile. This is the golgi body. Place it a small distance from your second rasin-babana slice (the rough ER not around the nucleus). Drop a few apple slices around it: one between the rough ER and the golgi body, one between the golgi body and the membrane, and a third wherever you feel like plopping it.
Step 4: Put Other Material in the Mix
Again, see the video:
These organelles do not stay in one place, so use your artistice sid in placing them; just make sure they're fairly evenly distributed.
Raspberries=lysosomes: place 3 in the cell.
Small cereal marshmallows=centrioles: place 2 near middle of cell.
Raisins=ribosomes: the bound ribosomes are already on your banana slices. Scatter 5-10 "free ribosomes" around your cell.
Chocolates=mitochondria: place 2-3 chocolates in the bowl.
Step 5: Add the Cytosol and Label
If you don't have the pre-mixed and semi-cooled (clear) geletin I suggested making, I would whip some up now. Since you're not likely to eat this, I'd suggest using half the directed amount of water and throwing it in the freezer. It will thicken faster. Also, DO NOT pour hot jello mix into your cell and put the whole thing in the fridge. Your centrioles and mitochondria will melt, your nucleolus will bleed all over, your ERs will begin to disintigrate... just bad news.
Ok. You have your geletin. Now grab a plastic fork. Break off three of the tines (you may want to coloe the remaining tine with permanant marker) and affix a masking-tape label to the end of the fork handle. With the fork facing handle-side-up, write "nucleus" on the label. Stick it into the nucleus. Repeat for your other cell parts.
Note that some forks will need additional support. lean them agains the bowl or arrange for geletin to support them. I gave up on doing a centriole fork and used a twist-tie instead. Alternatively, you could straighten out large paper clips and use them in place of the forks.
The cell parts I labeled were: Cell membrane, nucleus, nucleolus, smooth ER, rough ER, (bound) ribosomes, vessicle, lysosome, mitochondria, and centriole.
Pour in your geletin and make sure all labeling apperatus is steady. TA-DA! A CELL!
Step 6: Just for Fun
The larger version of this project was to include a song/poem about the functions of five of the cell parts. So just for fun (and because it shows the final project in detail) here's a song.