How to Create 3D Plant Cell and Animal Cell Models for Science Class

Updated on February 26, 2020
wildsimplicity profile image

I'm a former middle school science teacher who has made and graded hundreds of plant and animal cell models over the years.

A step-by-step tutorial for creating 3D plant and animal cell models.
A step-by-step tutorial for creating 3D plant and animal cell models.

Learn About Cells the Fun and Easy Way!

You don't need to be an award-winning painter, baker, or sculptor to create an awesome 3D cell model for science class—and have FUN while doing it!

In this step-by-step guide, you'll find a complete list of plant and animal cell organelles, suggestions for edible and non-edible project materials, how-to videos, and photos of cell models to inspire you.

Whether you're building this model for science class, a science fair, or a homeschool project, your 3D cell model is sure to impress.

Let's get started!

Short on time? My Amazon Idea List has everything you need to create a cell model for science class. Click SOURCE or the link above to view my list!
Short on time? My Amazon Idea List has everything you need to create a cell model for science class. Click SOURCE or the link above to view my list! | Source

Step 1: Choose Plant Cell vs. Animal Cell

First and foremost, you need to decide whether you will create a plant cell or animal cell.

Plant cells and animal cells are shaped differently and contain different parts.

The best way to decide? Take a look at some cell diagrams on an interactive site like CellsAlive.com. This site offers awesome animations of both plant and animal cells with descriptions of each organelle.

How to Make a Styrofoam Plant Cell Model

Step 2: Choose Edible vs. Non-Edible Model

Next, you should decide whether you want your cell model to be edible or not.

  • Edible cell models can be eaten (yum!) and are often made with cake, large cookies, Rice Krispie Treats, Jell-O, berries, or candies (e.g., M&Ms, gummy worms, jelly beans, etc.).
  • Non-edible cell models cannot be eaten and are often made with everyday craft supplies like styrofoam, pipe cleaners, shower gel, string, Play-Doh, or modeling clay.

There are pros and cons to each type of project. Consider how much money you want to spend, which supplies you already have in your home, your teacher's requirements, and the length of time your project will be on display (edible items may eventually rot, smell, or attract bugs). Also, consider your plans for after the school project or science fair is over. Do you hope to save the cell model in the basement or garage with other treasured mementos? Weigh your options carefully and choose your project accordingly.

Tip: If you are building your 3D model for school, check with your teacher to make sure an edible cell model is ok before you take the time to make it!

Decide whether your cell model will be edible or not.
Decide whether your cell model will be edible or not.

Step 3: Consider the Parts of the Cell

Now you need to make a list of all the parts, or organelles, that need to be included in your 3D cell model.

Organelles are the "mini organs" that are found inside every plant and animal cell.

Each organelle has a different function and physical appearance, and together they work to keep the cell alive.

While plant and animal cells share many of the same organelles, including the nucleus, Golgi apparatus, and mitochondria, there are a few key differences. Check out the chart below to see which organelles are found where.

Parts of the Animal Cell vs. Plant Cell

Cell Part
Animal Cell
Plant Cell
Cell Membrane
Cytoplasm
Nucleus
Golgi Apparatus
Mitochondria
Endoplasmic Reticulum
Ribosomes
Vacuoles
--
Central Vacuole
--
Lysosomes
Cell Wall
--
Chloroplasts
--

Animal Cell Model Inspiration

Click thumbnail to view full-size
There are so many different ways to build an animal cell model!
There are so many different ways to build an animal cell model!
There are so many different ways to build an animal cell model! | Source
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Step 4: Choose Your Materials

Here's where the real fun begins! It's time to decide which materials you will use to create each organelle.

Activity: To power up your creativity, set a timer for two minutes. During that time, write down every possible material you can think of. Here's a short list to get you thinking outside the box:

  • Edible Materials: Twizzlers, Skittles, gummy worms, jawbreakers, gum, pretzels, marshmallows, cereal, cake, cookies, chocolate chips, Jell-O, icing or fondant, sprinkles, food coloring
  • Non-Edible Materials: Clay, styrofoam, beads, yarn, twine, dry noodles, dry beans, pipe cleaners, buttons, rubber bands, toothpicks, construction paper, cardboard

Hint: The best materials are ones that already look like the organelles you're trying to create. For example, the nucleus in any cell is always round, so a jawbreaker, bouncy ball, or orange would each make a great nucleus in your cell model.

Plant Cell Model Inspiration

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Get creative and build a beautiful plant cell model!
Get creative and build a beautiful plant cell model!
Get creative and build a beautiful plant cell model! | Source
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Step 5: Build Your Model

As you begin building, make sure to start with the base of your 3D cell model. Why? Because you need to know how big to make everything, of course!

Once you've baked your cake, bought your styrofoam block, or sculpted your clay foundation, you can build those beautiful organelles. This is where your creativity can really shine—so have fun and don't forget to keep a diagram of the organelles nearby! Having a diagram on hand will ensure that your cell model is not only super cool to look at but also scientifically accurate.

Once all of your organelles are securely attached to the base of your model, label the organelles. Toothpicks and stickers make great labels, and they let everyone know what's what on your cell model.

How to Make an Animal Cell Model

Test Your Knowledge With a Quiz

view quiz statistics

A Deeper Understanding

Building a cell model should deepen your understanding of the cell and all of its distinct parts. It's also important to understand the functions of each part and how they work together. Let's take a closer look:

Organelle: Any specialized structure inside the cell.

Cell Membrane: Composed of a double lipid bilayer, the cell membrane separates and protects the cell from its environment, regulates the movement of molecules in and out of the cell, and provides structure to the cell.

Cytoplasm: The semifluid substance that fills the cell. All of the cell's organelles are suspended inside the cytoplasm.

Nucleus: Where the cell's genetic information, or DNA, is stored. The nucleus is like the "brain" of the cell; it issues instructions about what the cell should do next.

Nucelar Membrane: Also called the nuclear envelope, this is the membrane that encloses the nucleus. Like the cell membrane, the nuclear membrane is composed of a double lipid bilayer.

Golgi Apparatus: Responsible for taking proteins and lipids within the cell and modifying, packaging, and transporting them via vesicles to other places within the cell. Also called the Golgi body or Golgi complex.

Mitochondria: Responsible for energy production within the cell. The mitochondria generate a special energy molecule called ATP, which stands for adenosine triphosphate.

Endoplasmic Reticulum: Similar to the Golgi apparatus, the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) serves as a center for the synthesis, modification, and transport of proteins. There are two types: the rough ER and smooth ER, which are characterized by certain physical and functional differences.

Ribosomes: Floating freely in the cytoplasm, ribosomes are molecules that are responsible for synthesizing proteins.

Vacuoles: Storage facilities for the cell. Vacuoles play a role in storing food and water, and they also facilitate detoxification (sequestering harmful materials) and the removal of waste products.

Central Vacuole: Found only in plant cells, this is a large vacuole that stores water and helps maintain optimal turgor pressure within the cell.

Lysosomes: As the cell's digestive system, lysosomes contain enzymes to digest (break down) macromolecules, old cell parts, and microorganisms. Lysosomes are found only in animal cells.

Cell Wall: Found only in plant cells, the cell wall surrounds the cell membrane. The cell wall is stiff and rigid, and it provides additional protection and support to the cell.

Chloroplasts: Found only in plant cells, chloroplasts produce food (energy) for the cell by converting sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water into sugars. This process is called photosynthesis. The sunlight-absorbing molecules inside the chloroplast are called chlorophyll.

Parts of a Cell Song

Are You Satisfied With Your School Project?

Now that you've completed your project, the time has come to admire the sheer brilliance that is your finished 3D cell model. If you chose to make an edible cell model, it might also be time to break out the forks and spoons (after your teacher has had time to grade it, of course). Yum!

Which type of cell model are YOU building?

See results

One More Song (This One's a Rap!)

Why are you building a cell model?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Franchesca W

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      Lily 

      3 weeks ago

      Nice

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      CCC 

      2 months ago

      I can’t wait

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      Alexis 

      3 months ago

      You should show how to make a digital one

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      Bendy in the game 

      4 months ago

      nice & thank you

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      Freshta 

      4 months ago

      I love this website it helped me so much

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      Bokamoso 

      4 months ago

      Great site helped me to obtain FULL MARKS in science

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      4 months ago

      i love sc

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      joney 

      4 months ago

      thank you

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      Clara1324 

      4 months ago

      What should i do?

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      4 months ago

      Nice

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      Karene 

      5 months ago

      This is a nice site to look for a school science project

    • profile image

      Kp 

      5 months ago

      I love science!!!!!!!!!!

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      Harmomy 

      5 months ago

      This is the best

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      fifa god 

      6 months ago

      so good could use forever

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      madden boss 

      6 months ago

      so good i could get an A+

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      im a boss 

      6 months ago

      so amazing could just use it over and over again

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      crazy kid 

      6 months ago

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      Kellen 

      6 months ago

      Noice

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      Matthew 

      6 months ago

      This did not really help me but I bet it did for others

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      Nifemi OWOLABI 

      7 months ago

      Thanks alot from Nigeria

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      Idk 

      7 months ago

      I aready made mine I got the best grades

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      Maquaria 

      7 months ago

      They are really easy

    • profile image

      Happy Donuts 

      8 months ago

      This helped me so much the only thing is that I found this website the day after my project was due and now I feel like I failed my project miserably. Lol

    • profile image

      hana 

      8 months ago

      just read

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    • profile image

      Wierdo 

      8 months ago

      This really helped.thx now time to biuld it.

    • profile image

      304 

      8 months ago

      THIS is sick , i don't have to look everywhere for a design

    • profile image

      your favorite 

      8 months ago

      this was great! now i have to actually build it

    • profile image

      Meh 

      8 months ago

      Tanks

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      police 

      8 months ago

      where is rough endoplasmic reticulum and smooth endoplasmic reticulum and what jobs do they do?

    • profile image

      fortnite 

      9 months ago

      cool

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      Kade Daniel 

      9 months ago

      tbh kinda really helped, thx for making this so ez

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      Rose Donghi 

      9 months ago

      I absolutely loved this website, it made everything so easy! Thank you

    • profile image

      Unkown 

      9 months ago

      There all so har

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      Hosman 

      9 months ago

      Name the supplies

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      Lol 

      9 months ago

      ? Lol

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      my pp is hard 

      9 months ago

      do you remember the 21th first night of September

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      hairlineGEl 

      9 months ago

      how do i comment

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      cell researcher.... 

      9 months ago

      very happy to find an interesting project

    • wildsimplicity profile imageAUTHOR

      Franchesca W 

      9 months ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thank you so much!

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      anonymous name 

      9 months ago

      This is really helpful thanks you guys. I love what you are doing for people. This made my day nice and easy.

    • profile image

      Kaye 

      12 months ago

      I need to make idible plant cells

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      Me 

      12 months ago

      I need to make an edible animal cell cake

    • profile image

      Vinod Kumar 

      12 months ago

      Can you give me a easy model of human and animal cell but please as soon as possible and please l want a video that I can make by clay

    • profile image

      Hello 

      13 months ago

      This is helpful thank u ._.

    • profile image

      Me 

      13 months ago

      I dont inderstand how you guys are doinh this at alot im tring to draw one for my project but j cant i need serious help

    • profile image

      Me 

      14 months ago

      you guys are trash on fortnite dont worry i am to but your worse

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      rewardfaweta 

      15 months ago

      amazin

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      denis 

      15 months ago

      i don't like that is gav me 9000000k v-bucks on fortnite

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      ellie 

      16 months ago

      how do you do it?

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      amy 

      16 months ago

      this is amazing

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      16 months ago

      Thank you - this is awesome!

    • profile image

      T56vbyh7mo9 

      17 months ago

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    • profile image

      Lisa 

      17 months ago

      It is fun

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      bohhhh 

      17 months ago

      everyone dont believe it not helping

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      17 months ago

      everyone dont believe it not helping

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      skool suks 

      17 months ago

      this is not good info

    • profile image

      That's girl 

      17 months ago

      Yeah how to build it

    • profile image

      Tim 

      18 months ago

      Lysosomes are found in both plants and animal cells

    • profile image

      Ada 

      18 months ago

      This was great last minute help thanks x

    • profile image

      Hell.sk 

      19 months ago

      how to do it

    • profile image

      Alejandra Hernnadez 

      19 months ago

      I love doing these 3D models

    • profile image

      hi 

      19 months ago

      this helped a lot. so much fun

    • profile image

      ben10 univers 

      19 months ago

      i hate this because i dont want to do it again we did it three years ago

    • profile image

      :) 

      19 months ago

      It looks great!

    • profile image

      ugh 

      19 months ago

      I have to do this for a school project and I’m sad yet excited. But I also have an essay and have to present both without looking at my essay... :/

    • profile image

      lolololol 

      19 months ago

      i have this for school project

    • profile image

      Me 

      19 months ago

      Idiot

    • profile image

      lucas poo 

      19 months ago

      this helped

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      Jayred Sawchu 

      19 months ago

      this was cool i am a very amazed dude right now man

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    • profile image

      Josh 

      19 months ago

      this is cool and lit

    • profile image

      megan abad 

      19 months ago

      need help to make a 3d plant cell and animal cell model project. thanks.

    • profile image

      no-one 

      19 months ago

      yeah not helpful

    • profile image

      Fhjjkmk 

      20 months ago

      Don't have enough time to do this but would be helpful if I had more time

    • profile image

      Kunt 

      20 months ago

      Thanos

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      Brewers fan 

      20 months ago

      Thanks!

    • profile image

      (Unsafe Name) 

      20 months ago

      Hellose people and I want you to say that this really helped me and that it really worked, so I think I will get a good grade on this.

    • profile image

      vv 

      20 months ago

      horrible

    • profile image

      dodo 

      20 months ago

      very easy

    • profile image

      you know my name its start with d 

      20 months ago

      hugs

    • profile image

      Your Mom 

      20 months ago

      I made this and threw it at my brother. Very good weapon. Lighting it on fire and sticking needles in it next time. Advised for bullies.

    • profile image

      duck 

      20 months ago

      the quiz was eazy

    • profile image

      Someone 

      20 months ago

      This wasn't very helpful because it doesn't have a how-to or a supply list. Maybe add them next time

    • profile image

      smar nigga 

      21 months ago

      the Quiz easy

    • profile image

      a friend with a partner. 

      21 months ago

      this totally helped us with our idea for possible designs. not with a supply list, which is what i was looking for. perhaps add a supply list or a rough idea? that would help us much more than an idea for a design.

    • profile image

      Zabby 

      21 months ago

      Not helping

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      Know your Options 

      21 months ago

      Um... Not very helpful

    • profile image

      Fortnite KIng 

      21 months ago

      This helped thx :)

    • profile image

      Hi 

      21 months ago

      good

    • profile image

      North Carolina 

      21 months ago

      Tahni, just don't overthink it

    • profile image

      Project lover 

      21 months ago

      You can use a round styrofoam ball cut 1/4 out paint it the colors above. And label it with the check list above use strips of paper glued to toothpicks to lable.

    • profile image

      Tahni McNeil 

      21 months ago

      hey if any one can see this can they please help me out. i need to make a animal cell but i don/t know what do use and how to set out my deign project so can ya help me out to plan my design please i need you to reply asap because it is due tomorrow 1:20 please i really need help with this please please please help me (:(:(:(:(:(:(:(: ps: who ever reply first wins 1,0000 millon dollars yay come on first one wins(:(:(:

    • profile image

      ,,, 

      21 months ago

      solid

    • profile image

      kamakaze 

      21 months ago

      this stuff looks super awesome, I can't wait to try it.

    • profile image

      my name is jurema 

      22 months ago

      goooooooooooooooood

    • profile image

      Dallas 

      22 months ago

      this helped a lot thx u and jeff shut up dude

    • profile image

      jeff 

      22 months ago

      this is trash

    • profile image

      Unknown User 

      22 months ago

      This helped me alot

    • profile image

      Savannah 

      22 months ago

      This was some great ideas!!!!!!

    • profile image

      no name 

      22 months ago

      cool thanks

    • profile image

      chloe 

      22 months ago

      thus is helpfull since i have a project due tommorrow but idk what tge labels are

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