877-542-5504 877-542-5504

Making Three Dimensional Plant and Animal Cells Lesson Plan

Want to Help Fellow Teachers?

Please help us grow this free resource by submitting your favorite lesson plans.

Lesson Plan #:AELP-BIO003
Author: Patricia (Pat) Brickley, Battle Mtn. Jr. High, Battle Mountain, NV. Date: May 1994

Grade Level(s): 6, 7, 8, 9, 10


  • Science/Biology

OVERVIEW: Many students have trouble visualizing cells as 3- dimensional units, containing several different parts, working together. As they study pictures in text books, slides and videos, and look at leaves or their own skin, they often get the impression that cells are flat, 2-dimensional units.


The purpose of this activity is to provide students with a hands-on activity which will enhance their understanding of the 3-D characteristics of cells while reinforcing their knowledge of plant and animal cell structure.


Students will be able to:

  • Compare and contrast the structures of plants and animals.
  • Demonstrate and understand the 3-dimensional aspect of cell structure.
  • Identify the various parts of plant and animal cells.
  • RESOURCES/MATERIALS: Play-doe, food coloring or tempera paints (red, purple, green, blue), 1 pair disposable gloves, yarn or undercooked spaghetti, pepper, plastic-bubble packing, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, pencil shavings, scissors, 1 large knife, glue Cell structure list and possible materials for each group:

  • Cytoplasm — play-doe (plain – approx. 260g or 8oz)*
  • Endoplasmic reticulum — yarn or cooked spaghetti
  • Ribosomes — pepper
  • Mitochondria — play-doe (purple – approx. 7g)**
  • Vacuole — plastic-bubble packing
  • Lysosome — play-doe (red – approx. 5g)
  • Chloroplasts — play-doe (green – approx. 10g)
  • Cell wall — aluminum foil (approx. 12 X 7)
  • Cell membrane — plastic wrap (approx. 12 X 16)
  • Nucleus — play-doe (blue – approx. 20g)
  • Nuclear membrane — plastic wrap (approx. 3X6)
  • Chromosomes — pencil shavings

  • * Play-doe recipe: This makes about 850g (30oz) – enough for 3 groups.

    • 1 C soda (salt for baking)
    • 1 C flour
    • 1 C corn starch
    • 4 t cream of tarter
    • 2 T oil
    • 1-3/4 C water Stove top method: Mix and cook until the dough leaves the side of pan. Cool on plate with wet cloth on top.

      Oven method: Bake @ 150 F overnight.

      ** To color play-doe use food coloring or tempera paints. (Using rubber or disposable gloves is a good idea.)


    • After studying cell structure, divide the class into small groups.
    • Gather all materials and have them laid out according to the number of student groups. (See material list below.)
    • Distribute materials and lists of cell structures to each group.
    • Inform groups they will be making two cells — one plant and one animal cell. When they finish, each cell will be about the size of a tennis ball. The first part of the class period will be spent making the cell structures themselves. Instruct them to wait before putting the cells together until you can explain the procedure. Have group leaders assign responsibility, for each cell part, to the group members. (The cell structure list also includes possible materials which could be used. These materials could be expanded or substituted.)
    • Have the cell membrane people cut the large piece of plastic wrap in half and place each piece on the table.
    • Have the cytoplasm people form 2 balls using the plain play-doe or clay. Lay 1 ball on each piece of plastic wrap and press each into a pancake about 6.
    • Instruct them to designate one pancake, animal cell and the other plant cell.
    • Have members of each group find the supplies they need to represent their cell structures, cut, form, fold, paste, etc. until their structure is simulated. Then place the finished structures in a pile on the center of the appropriate pancake. (Exception — cell wall)
    • When all of the cell parts are completed and in place, have someone in each group gather up the pancake carefully cupping it around its topping and seal all of the edges together forming a ball. Next have the cell membrane people wrap the plastic wrap around the cytoplasm and have the cell wall people wrap the aluminum foil around the plant cell.
    • Depending on the length of time available, cells may be set aside for the next class period or each may be cut in half with a large knife right away.

      The students are excited to see their parts in the cell and this leads to an excellent opportunity for students to share ideas, reasons, and information with the groups and the class. This is also an ideal opportunity to compare the similarities and differences of the two types of cells. I usually pick a couple of the best ones to be put in the display case for future years. The play- doe will harden. This activity works equally well as a structured, teacher directed activity or a creative small group or individual endeavor; the students’ own experience and knowledge are the only determinants.

      May 1994

      These lesson plans are the result of the work of the teachers who have attended the Columbia Education Center’s Summer Workshop. CEC is a consortium of teacher from 14 western states dedicated to improving the quality of education in the rural, western, United States, and particularly the quality of math and science Education. CEC uses Big Sky Telegraph as the hub of their telecommunications network that allows the participating teachers to stay in contact with their trainers and peers that they have met at the Workshops.