Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Cell Factory

Emily Durney
Orange County Schools


This activity is a fun way for the students to demonstrate their understanding of the basic structures of cells and the essential functions in cells. Students build a model of a factory where each factory part is compared to a cell part via the function.


The student knows the essential functions in cells.

The student uses or constructs models of plant and animal cells to identify the basic structures of each.


-A sheet of notebook paper, one for each pair of students
-Cell Factory Blueprints (See Associated File)
-Cell Parts Vocabulary (See Associated File)
-Cell Factory Rubric (See Associated File)
-Cell Factory model sample, made by past student or teacher
-Cell Model Sample Ideas (See Associated File)
-White paper, enough to cover the outside of the shoebox
-Construction paper (optional for decorating)
-Small, self-adhesive labels
-Black pen
-Tape, glue, glue gun
-Assorted materials from home to represent cell/factory parts (See Cell Model Sample Ideas in Associated File)


1. Prepare a sample cell factory model for display. (See Associated File for ideas)
2. Make copies of the Cell Parts Vocabulary for each pair of students as an in-class reference. Make a transparency for whole-class use. (See Associated File)
3. Make copies of the Cell Factory Rubric for each pair of students to keep. (See Associated File)
4. Make copies of the Cell Factory Blueprints for each student to write on and hand in for assessment. (See Associated File)
5. Make one copy of the Cell Model Sample Ideas for teacher reference only. (See Associated File)
6. Gather remaining materials.


Note: Prior to this activity, students are familiarized with the cell vocabulary and cell diagrams in the textbook and have observed plant and animal cells and cell parts using a microscope. For Cells Parts Vocabulary, see associated file.

1. Without revealing its identity, show a sample of a cell factory model to the class and ask the students if they can identify what it is.

2. Encourage students to share their ideas with you. Question the students to lead them to the correct answer. Explain how each part of a factory can be matched with a part of a cell based on the job it does. (For example, the boss' office in a factory represents the nucleus of a cell because it directs all activities within. In the model, the boss' office is a small box decorated to look like an office.) See if anyone can identify something on the model and explain its relation to a cell part.

3. Explain that today they will be paired with another student to begin brainstorming ideas for their own cell factory model. Their models will represent a plant cell, or you may choose to give them the option of an animal cell. (See Extensions)

4. Begin by pairing students. Each pair of students needs one sheet of notebook paper, pencils for recording, and a copy of the Cell Parts Vocabulary.

5. First have the pairs decide what product their factory will produce (i.e., candy, shoes, CDs). This is very important to help them start designing the factory!

6. Instruct the students to make a list of the 13 plant cell parts (See Associated File) and brainstorm the parts of a factory that would match them based on their function. They may use their Cell Parts Vocabulary to review the functions of the plant cell parts. Here is an example: In a chocolate factory, a conveyor belt moves the chocolate to a packaging/wrapper machine. In a cell, the endoplasmic reticulum (conveyor belt) moves the ribosomes (chocolate) around the cell and then to the Golgi body (packaging machine).

7. Once the pairs have completed this list, review it with them for accuracy.

8. Next, have the students brainstorm materials from home that they will use to represent the cell parts in their models (including the shoebox). Have them bring any materials in to class the following day.

9. Encourage students to communicate with their partner regarding materials and design.

10. Review the Cell Factory Rubric (See Associated File) with the class to explain expectations.

11. Over the following 4 days, students construct their models in class. Have them use the small, self-adhesive labels and black pens to identify and label the various cell/factory parts.

12. When finished with their model, instruct students to fill in the Cell Factory Blueprints (See Associated File) according to their model.

13. After the models are completed (approximately 5 days), allow volunteers to share their models with the class.


Use the completed model and the Cell Factory Blueprints (See Associated File) to assess the studentís ability to:
-construct a model of a plant cell to identify the basic structures;
-know the essential functions in cells.
The Cell Factory Rubric (See Associated File) includes the criteria for successful performance.


You may give the students a choice of designing a plant cell model or an animal cell model. They must be reminded that the plant cell contains parts that the animal cell does not. (See Cell Parts Vocabulary in Associated File) If students choose an animal cell, and they still use a shoebox, remind them that a live animal cell would be rounded and not square like a plant cell. In this case the shoebox would serve as the cell membrane and not the cell wall.
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