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The Cell

By Lisa Fernandez

Type of Entry:

  • Lesson/class activity

Type of Activity:

  • Simulation
  • Group/cooperative learning

Target Audience:

  • Life Science
  • Biology


This lesson will answer several questions for students.

  1. What do plant and animal cells look like?

  2. What are the different cell organelles and what is their function? 3) What are the differences between plant and animal cells?

This activity was designed for a lower level Biology class, but can be easily modified to meet the needs of your students no matter what the level. There are some things to keep in mind as the students complete the task. Make sure when the students begin to draw their structure that you keep an eye on the size of the structure as well as the amount of structures they are making. It has been my experience that students tend to draw the structures small and they do not tend to make enough of their structure. It is also a good idea to double check the information that they will be reporting on for accuracy. The first group to do their presentation must be the cell wall/cell membrane group. This group will draw their structures directly onto the butcher paper. They will trace the pencil outline that was drawn by the teacher. The rest of the presentations do not have to be in any particular order, I have found that the order outlined in the Cell Part Notes works best. After each presentation, the group should label their cell part.

The students are required to find information about their assigned cell part. They will draw and cut out an appropriate amount of their cell structure for both an animal and a plant cell (if necessary). They will present their information to the class and tape their cell structure(s) to the animal and plant cell in the front of the room.

There is not that much prep time needed for this activity. Beforehand, the teacher must cut out two large pieces of butcher paper (approximately 3 feet by 4 feet). On one of the pieces, write animal cell and on the other piece write plant cell in large letters. With a pencil, draw an outline of a plant and an animal cell as a guide for students. This will enable students to judge how large their cell part must be. Then gather up paper to draw structures on, markers to color the structures and scissors to cut out the structures.

I allow the students to collect data, draw their cell and cut it out during one 50 minute period. If they finish early they should discuss their presentation. The first 10 minutes of the next period is used to prepare their presentations. The last 40 minutes is used for their presentations.


This lesson is designed to help students visualize plant and animal cells, understand the parts of a cell and their functions and distinguish plant cells from animal cells. Students will do this by completing a three-fold task:

  1. Researching the function of their assigned cell part.

  2. Drawing and cutting out their assigned cell part.

  3. Presenting their information to the class and placing their cell part on the classroom animal and plant cells.

At the end of this activity, students will see a home made plant and animal cell. They will understand the parts of a cell and their functions by the research they conducted and from the information they gathered from listening to their peers. They will be able to visually see the difference between plant and animal cells and will have written the differences down in their notes.


  • 2 pieces of butcher paper (1 for the plant cell and 1 for the animal cell)

  • White paper to make their drawings

  • Markers to color their drawings

  • Scissors to cut out their drawings

The Cell

The cell theory tells us that the cell is the basic unit of life, all organisms are made up of cells, and new cells come only from other living cells. Whether you are a simple organism, an amoeba, made up of only one cell or a complex organism, a human, made up of many cells, each cell is built the same way. A single cell works like a fast food restaurant. There are many important jobs to be done to get an order out to the customer, someone to make the french fries, someone to cook the hamburgers, someone to prepare the sandwiches, someone to prepare the drinks, someone to take the order, etc. In order for a cell to work as efficiently, there are many cell parts that must work together as well. Cells can also work together to perform some complicated functions. For example, cells work together to form muscle tissue which aids in movement. In later chapters, we will be investigating the detailed work of the cell as they function together in all of the systems of the human body. However, before we can understand these complicated functions we must understand the functions of the cell and it's parts.

Each group will be assigned a cell part(s). Each group will find the following information about their cell part:

  1. Determine whether the cell part(s) belong in a plant cell, an animal cell or both types of cells

  2. Write the function(s) of the cell part(s).

  3. Draw and cut a picture of your cell part for both the plant and animal cell. If the cell is equipped with more than one of your cell parts, then you need to draw and cut out the appropriate number of cell parts for each cell. Be sure to notice the size of our plant and animal cells. Make sure that you cell part is the appropriate size.

Each group will present their cell part(s) to the class. Each member of the group must participate in the presentation. During the presentation, explain the information your group researched then place your cell part(s) on the butcher paper in the appropriate place for both the plant and animal cell.

You will be assigned one of the following cell parts:

  • Nucleus

  • Endoplasmic reticulum and ribosomes

  • Mitochondria and ATP

  • Chloroplast and chlorophyll (you will draw your structures directly on the butcher paper)

  • Cell membrane and cell wall

  • Cytoplasm, protoplasm and vacuole

At the end of all of the presentations, everyone will be responsible for the function of all of the cell parts so be sure to take good notes!

Cell Part Notes
1. Cell wall:  
2. Cell membrane:  
3. Nucleus:  
4. Cytoplasm:  
5. Protoplasm:  
6. Vacuole:  
7. Endoplasmic reticulum:  
8. Ribosomes:  
9. Mitochondria:  
10. ATP:  
11. Chloroplast:  
12. Chlorophyll:  

QUESTION: What is the difference between an animal and a plant cell?

Method of Assessment/Evaluation

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