How to Build a 3D Model of a Plant Cell

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Plant cells are the building blocks for all plant matter. They are similar in structure to animal cells but have a few noticeable differences: their square shape, the rigid cell wall that surrounds them and their chloroplasts that are used for photosynthesis. They also contain a single, large vacuole, whereas animal cells have many. Keeping these differences in mind is helpful when building a 3D model of a plant cell so that it comes out looking as realistic as possible.

How to Build a 3D Model of a Plant Cell
(Robinson Cartagena Lopez - RoCarLo/Demand Media)

Things You'll Need

  • 2 32-oz. Ziploc bags
  • Vegetable oil
  • Medium-sized bouncy ball
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Green grapes
  • Balloon
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Ribbon candy
  • Small marble
  • Sesame seeds
Step 1

Pour vegetable oil into one of your Ziploc bags until it’s about half full. The vegetable oil represents the cell’s cytoplasm.

Robinson Cartagena Lopez - RoCarLo/Demand Media
Step 2

Add a medium-sized bouncy ball. This will be your nucleus.

Robinson Cartagena Lopez - RoCarLo/Demand Media
Step 3

Place three or four mandarin oranges as mitochondria and three or four green grapes as chloroplasts in the bag.

Robinson Cartagena Lopez - RoCarLo/Demand Media
Step 4

Pour water into a balloon until it is two or three times the size of your nucleus bouncy ball. Tie the end of the balloon and place it in the Ziploc. This will serve as the vacuole, a fluid-filled space within the cell.

Robinson Cartagena Lopez - RoCarLo/Demand Media
Step 5

Add several pieces of pipe cleaner as endoplasmic reticulum.

Robinson Cartagena Lopez - RoCarLo/Demand Media
Step 6

Add a piece of ribbon candy to represent the Golgi apparatus and a small marble for the centrosome.

Robinson Cartagena Lopez - RoCarLo/Demand Media
Step 7

Sprinkle in a small handful of sesame seeds. These will represent the cell’s ribosomes.

Robinson Cartagena Lopez - RoCarLo/Demand Media
Step 8

Add more vegetable oil to the bag, if needed, until it is fairly full but still has plenty of give. Close the bag.

Robinson Cartagena Lopez - RoCarLo/Demand Media
Step 9

Maneuver the organelles so they are spread throughout the bag. Make sure your centrisome and Golgi apparatus end up near the nucleus, as this is how they’re situated in a real cell.

Robinson Cartagena Lopez - RoCarLo/Demand Media
Step 10

Place the bag inside your second Ziploc bag. If it doesn’t fit easily, pour out oil until it does.

Robinson Cartagena Lopez - RoCarLo/Demand Media
Step 11

Drizzle a little bit of oil in the space between the two bags. This represents the cell membrane, a thin, semi-permeable membrane between the cell wall and the rest of the cell. Close up the second bag.

Robinson Cartagena Lopez - RoCarLo/Demand Media

Tips & Warnings

  • If you don’t have some of these ingredients, you can switch them for other, similar ingredients. For example, you can replace vegetable oil with gelatin or exchange sesame seeds for bird seed or pepper.

References

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