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

Updated on March 28, 2019
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!

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

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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

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

Test Your Knowledge With a Quiz

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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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2011 wildsimplicity

    Comments

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      • profile image

        Vinod Kumar 

        8 days 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 

        4 weeks ago

        This is helpful thank u ._.

      • profile image

        Me 

        6 weeks 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 

        8 weeks ago

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

      • profile image

        rewardfaweta 

        2 months ago

        amazin

      • profile image

        denis 

        3 months ago

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

      • profile image

        ellie 

        4 months ago

        how do you do it?

      • profile image

        amy 

        4 months ago

        this is amazing

      • profile image

        Bev 

        4 months ago

        Thank you - this is awesome!

      • profile image

        T56vbyh7mo9 

        4 months ago

        We are doing this tookimunhbg

      • profile image

        Lisa 

        4 months ago

        It is fun

      • profile image

        bohhhh 

        5 months ago

        everyone dont believe it not helping

      • profile image

        skool suks 

        5 months ago

        this is not good info

      • profile image

        That's girl 

        5 months ago

        Yeah how to build it

      • profile image

        Tim 

        5 months ago

        Lysosomes are found in both plants and animal cells

      • profile image

        Ada 

        6 months ago

        This was great last minute help thanks x

      • profile image

        Hell.sk 

        6 months ago

        how to do it

      • profile image

        Alejandra Hernnadez 

        6 months ago

        I love doing these 3D models

      • profile image

        hi 

        6 months ago

        this helped a lot. so much fun

      • profile image

        ben10 univers 

        6 months ago

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

      • profile image

        :) 

        6 months ago

        It looks great!

      • profile image

        ugh 

        6 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 

        6 months ago

        i have this for school project

      • profile image

        Me 

        7 months ago

        Idiot

      • profile image

        lucas poo 

        7 months ago

        this helped

      • profile image

        Jayred Sawchu 

        7 months ago

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

        coolest thingy ever fam

      • profile image

        Josh 

        7 months ago

        this is cool and lit

      • profile image

        megan abad 

        7 months ago

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

      • profile image

        no-one 

        7 months ago

        yeah not helpful

      • profile image

        Fhjjkmk 

        7 months ago

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

      • profile image

        Kunt 

        7 months ago

        Thanos

      • profile image

        Brewers fan 

        7 months ago

        Thanks!

      • profile image

        (Unsafe Name) 

        7 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 

        7 months ago

        horrible

      • profile image

        dodo 

        8 months ago

        very easy

      • profile image

        you know my name its start with d 

        8 months ago

        hugs

      • profile image

        Your Mom 

        8 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 

        8 months ago

        the quiz was eazy

      • profile image

        Someone 

        8 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 

        8 months ago

        the Quiz easy

      • profile image

        a friend with a partner. 

        8 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 

        8 months ago

        Not helping

      • profile image

        Know your Options 

        9 months ago

        Um... Not very helpful

      • profile image

        Fortnite KIng 

        9 months ago

        This helped thx :)

      • profile image

        Hi 

        9 months ago

        good

      • profile image

        North Carolina 

        9 months ago

        Tahni, just don't overthink it

      • profile image

        Project lover 

        9 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 

        9 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

        ,,, 

        9 months ago

        solid

      • profile image

        kamakaze 

        9 months ago

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

      • profile image

        my name is jurema 

        9 months ago

        goooooooooooooooood

      • profile image

        Dallas 

        9 months ago

        this helped a lot thx u and jeff shut up dude

      • profile image

        jeff 

        9 months ago

        this is trash

      • profile image

        Unknown User 

        9 months ago

        This helped me alot

      • profile image

        Savannah 

        9 months ago

        This was some great ideas!!!!!!

      • profile image

        no name 

        9 months ago

        cool thanks

      • profile image

        chloe 

        10 months ago

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

      • profile image

        ANONYMUS 

        10 months ago

        THANKS FOR MATERIAL IDEAS

      • profile image

        Goku palmore 

        10 months ago

        thank you very helpful in school

      • profile image

        Pin 

        11 months ago

        awsome

      • profile image

        Jesse Ruiz 

        14 months ago

        I have 1 weekend to do my/a 3D animal cell project due on May 1st.

        ON A TUESDAY!!!

      • profile image

        Ana Vasquez 

        14 months ago

        i have a cell project due tomorrow

      • profile image

        F+ 

        15 months ago

        I got an f+ on my project because they found out that I copied one

      • profile image

        Lil mama 

        16 months ago

        This was alright... it was great i guess. /:

      • profile image

        norma schmidt 

        16 months ago

        i hadnt started the project yet but im positive that i will succeed due to the help ive got.im in level 9 and i really want to get a A+

      • profile image

        School Girl 

        16 months ago

        This really helped me get an idea of what I was going to do.

      • profile image

        joe 

        18 months ago

        AWESOME

      • profile image

        Elaine 

        20 months ago

        I love these projects so much I acaullly use one and copyed it for my project thank you for your hard work to copy.

      • profile image

        20 months ago

        Thanks

      • profile image

        Rochnaelle 

        20 months ago

        thank you very much .I really appreciated because that really help me with my project and i will do the same thing as you guys did and i will tell you what i got for my project.Thank you and thank you very much ,God bless all of yall in here and hope you have a nice day.Reply and like my Comment for me and that really going to help me .

        Love

      • profile image

        Mohamed 

        21 months ago

        Hi

        Thanks

      • profile image

        sajid 

        21 months ago

        This is great i will get an A+ for sure!

      • profile image

        faith 

        21 months ago

        so cool

      • profile image

        logan 

        21 months ago

        i dont get this

      • profile image

        me 

        21 months ago

        this is confusing

      • profile image

        Bri 

        21 months ago

        Awesome! Thanks so much!

      • profile image

        Lisa and McKynzye 

        21 months ago

        Thank you for these great ideas! They will truly be beneficial to my granddaughter as she creates her own plant or animal cell.

      • profile image

        molly 

        22 months ago

        this is very helpful to me thank you so much

      • profile image

        sneha 

        2 years ago

        nice info

      • profile image

        Nuraz 

        2 years ago

        Thanks this helped a lot with my science project on 3d cell models.

      • profile image

        dejag3646@duarteusd.org 

        2 years ago

        u did nt show what stuff u need to use for a science project

      • profile image

        butt 

        2 years ago

        hey very weird how you found that, but it helped me so much. thank you!!!!

      • profile image

        anna 

        2 years ago

        niceeeee................

      • profile image

        Natalie 

        3 years ago

        This really helped, but my science teacher is strict and doesn't allow edible cells, which I really wanted to do

      • profile image

        marshall 

        3 years ago

        awesome! I love it!

      • profile image

        LeoValdez 

        4 years ago

        This was so much help with my thingy for high school! Calypso helped me make it though :p ALL DA LADIES LUV LEO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :p

      • profile image

        Heyz_u 

        4 years ago

        I followed this and got an A+ on my project thanks so much!!

      • profile image

        LaLaMan 

        4 years ago

        I need more info

      • profile image

        aaron 

        4 years ago

        the cake is a lie

      • profile image

        yo mama 

        4 years ago

        hello I will eat your cake

      • profile image

        maxwell 

        4 years ago

        can u help me , please

      • profile image

        timothy 

        4 years ago

        I love this site thank you for making it

      • profile image

        madison Archer 

        4 years ago

        well you see i have this project at my school about this animal and plant cell in 3d and i want to get a good grade on my first ever three d model of it and i want you the viewers of this message to send me some good and good grade models and if you have designed one and you got a good grade on it send me a pick of it

      • profile image

        maggie3000 

        5 years ago

        I am trying to build a cell model of a melanoma cell. I can't find any images that show what the cell looks like. Any ideas?

      • OUTFOXprevention1 profile image

        OUTFOXprevention1 

        5 years ago

        Great cell models! Thanks for the lens

      • happy-birthday profile image

        Birthday Wishes 

        5 years ago from Here

        Not yet... Thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful lens!!!

      • Stephanie36 profile image

        Stephanie 

        5 years ago from Canada

        I remember making an edible plant cell out of candy in grade 9 science. One of the best science projects ever :)

      • profile image

        LearningWithMeaning 

        6 years ago

        What a fun project! We are studying cells right now and I definitely plan to add an edible cell model to our list of activities. Another resource that you might like is PunFlay's "Cell and Cell Structure" app for the iPad. It is interactive, informative and presents the material in way that 5th-8th graders can understand.

      • sbaiju profile image

        sbaiju 

        6 years ago

        for the first time i came to know that 3d cell model is available, Thanks for the info

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