Cell models illustrate how cells work in plants and animals. The plant cell may be especially difficult for students to visualize, because it works a little differently than an animal cell. Help your students visualize this unique cell by having them make plant cell models. As the students work, they will have a visual reference, allowing students to recall the information more easily, later.
Paint a large, empty shoebox green, inside and out. Let the paint dry overnight. This is the cell wall. Plant cells have a stiff, hard cell wall. Inside the box place pale yellow or clear cellophane, crumpled up. This represents the cytoplasm, which houses the organelles.
Roll a piece of dark pink, self-hardening clay into a ball, about the size of your palm. Cut the ball in half, and glue one half into the center of your shoebox, with the rounded side down.
Roll a ball of light pink clay about the size of a ping-pong ball. Cut this ball in half and press one half, flat side down, onto the flat side of your dark pink ball. The dark pink ball is the nucleus and the light one is the nucleolus. The nucleus is the cell brain and the nucleolus---inside the nucleus---is where DNA is converted to RNA.
Wrap the underside of the nucleus in pink plastic wrap. This represents the nuclear membrane that helps the nucleus hold its shape. Since the top of the model is a cross-section, you do not need to show the membrane on top of the nucleus. Glue the nucleus to the bottom center of the box.
Mold a large, semi-square blob of blue self-hardening clay. Place it above the nucleus; it should fill the top half of the box, almost completely. This is a vacuole. They help plant cells keep their shape.
Cut two 10-inch lengths of blue wire-edged ribbon. Spread one out and smear it with glue. Sprinkle purple seed beads into the glue, and let the ribbon dry for 10 minutes. Fold both ribbons into accordions and glue them into your box, against the right side of the nucleus. The ribbons are rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Rough ER forms proteins and smooth ER forms lipids.
Fold up a 10-inch length of purple, wire-edge ribbon. Glue it into the box, near the bottom. This is a Golgi body. Golgi bodies export proteins and carbohydrates from the cell.
Glue pink Swedish fish candies, green sour gummy candies, pink marbles and purple seed beads over the bottom of the box, randomly . These are mitochondria, chloroplasts, amyloplasts and ribosomes, respectively. Mitochondria create energy, chloroplasts store green chlorophyll, amyloplasts store starch and ribosomes synthesize protein.
Smear orange marbles with glue and roll them in orange seed beads. Glue a few of these beaded marbles into the box, near the nucleus. These marbles are centrosomes. They help the cells divide.
Line the inside of the edges of the box with green plastic wrap. Glue it into place loosely, so it crumples slightly. This represents the cell membrane. It contains the organelles and innards of the cell.