At some point in their academic careers, many students must create a diorama, model or other hands-on project as a follow-up to a lesson. Often teachers use these projects as a way to cement the information in students’ minds and add some fun to the classroom. One very popular project is the cell model. Many teachers require their students to draw cells or to create cell models in boxes or bags. Some students get creative and make them from wax or clay. Others choose to gain snack points and make their cell models from Jell-O. These cell models are not only edible and tasty, they demonstrate how a cell truly looks by giving the student the ability to suspend “organelles” in the Jell-O “cytoplasm.” This is an easy, fun project to do at home or help your students create in school.
- Shallow plastic container
- Jell-O (lemon or another light color)
- Small nectarine
- Fruit roll-ups (blue or purple)
- Sixlets candy
- Gummy worms (sugar coated and smooth)
- Candy sprinkles
- Gum drops
Make the Jell-O according to package instructions, except use about ¾ of the water the instructions recommend. This ensures your “cytoplasm” will be sturdy enough to hold all of the “organelle” and they won’t shift or sink to the bottom of the cell.
Pour the Jell-O into the plastic container. The container acts as the cell wall or membrane. A square container is appropriate for a plant cell while any shape works well for an animal cell. For a plant cell you may also want to use lime Jell-O.
Place the Jell-O in your refrigerator for about 45 minutes, until it is almost set but not quite. Pull out your other supplies. Cut the nectarine in half, making sure the pit stays in one half. Cut your fruit roll-ups into ¼ inch strips.
Slip the nectarine half with the pit into the center of the Jell-O as the nucleus. Put some sugar-coated and smooth gummy worms around one side of the nucleus as rough and smooth ER (endoplasmic reticulum).
Push a few gumdrops around the nucleus as centrosomes and scatter sixlets through the Jell-O as lysosomes. Scatter raisins as mitochondria, Gobstoppers as vacuoles, sprinkles as ribosomes and fold your fruit roll-ups into accordions and insert them as Golgi bodies. Allow the Jell-O to set for about 20 more minutes.