Cells are the building blocks of living organisms. The nucleus, ribosomes and mitochondria all play pivotal roles in processing nutrients and protecting genetic material to give health and unique characteristics to plants, animals, insects and humans. Outside the biology class laboratory, you can demonstrate cell structure by making a three-dimensional replica with common household items. A 3-D plant cell replica can be used as either a teaching aid or the basis for a science fair project.
- Quart-sized, resealable plastic bag
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 toothbrushes
- 3 peanuts or almonds, halved
- Bouncy ball
- 2 rubber bands
- 10 peppercorns
Heat to a rolling boil a mixture of 2 cups of sugar and 3 cups of water in a saucepan. Reduce the mixture slightly to a thickened simple syrup. Allow to cool completely.
Break or cut the heads off two toothbrushes and discard the handles. Use green toothbrushes, if possible, for increased realism. The brush heads will represent chloroplasts inside the cell.
Separate or cut three peanuts or almonds into halves lengthwise. These items will be the 3-D cell replica's mitochondria.
Open the plastic bag. Place the toothbrush heads, an egg, a small bouncy ball, two rubber bands the halved nuts and a small handful of peppercorns into the bag. The egg serves as the plant cell's vacuole, the bouncy ball is the nucleus, rubber bands are the endoplasmic reticulum and the peppercorns replicate ribosomes. Using a hard-boiled egg will extend the life of your 3-D cell replica by reducing the risk of accidental breakage.
Pour in the simple syrup; the liquid serves as the plant cell's cytoplasm. Seal the bag after pushing out any air, so that only the liquid and objects remain inside. Spread out the objects by gently massaging the bag.
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About the Author
Trevor Wendzonka is a public relations specialist based in the Midwest. He worked for a 30,000 circulation newspaper for 15 years as a sports and government writer, and spent a number of years editing and designing pages on the copy desk.
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