Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Constructing a Cell

Carl Rogers


Students construct a model of a plant or animal cell, using the materials provided to represent each of the different organelles within the cell.


The student knows that the cells with similar functions have similar structures, whereas those with different structures have different functions.


-Styrofoam (large sheet, one-inch thick)
-Pipe cleaners
-Different colored beads
-Buttons (many different sizes and colors)


1. Collect the materials.
2. Cut the styrofoam into circles for animal cells and/or squares for plant cells.
3. Put the materials on the lab tables, making sure there are plenty of beads and buttons for each lab station.
4. Prepare a completed model of each type of cell, or use previously-created student models if this lesson has been done before.


NOTE: This lesson occurs after the students have a working knowledge of the basic structures of plant and animal cells, their descriptions and functions.

1. Show a completed model of each type of cell and talk about the different organelles.

2. Show the different kinds of materials that they are going to use and explain to the students that all of their materials are at their lab stations.

3. Refer the students back to the notes that they have taken on the cell, especially the organelles, their appearances and functions.

4. Tell the students that when they get into their lab groups (2 per group) to first discuss the organelles and then decide which materials will be used for which organelle.

5. Encourage them to get a picture in their minds of what their cell is going to look like. They can construct either an animal or plant cell and should choose the appropriate piece of styrofoam. Remind them that the plant cell contains parts that the animal cell does not--i.e., a cell wall and chloroplast.

6. Explain to the students that they are to come to the teacher, as a group, when they are finished. They must identify each organelle in the model, explain its function and tell why they used that specific material to represent it.

7. As the students are working on their models, walk around the room to answer questions and provide help when appropriate. (Note: You really want them to do this activity on their own.)


Each group comes to the teacher when they finish their model to explain each part of the cell that they have constructed, the function of each part and why they used that certain material to represent it. (All explanations should be provided without help from their notes.) An example of what the students might say is, “This certain button represents the nucleus, which is the brain of the cell; it controls all the activities of the cell.” All the different organelles must be represented in order to meet the requirements of the assignment.
Return to the Beacon Lesson Plan Library.