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Student Activity - Modelling animal cells in 3D

Activity idea

In this activity, students make 3D models of specialised animal cells, imitating what can be seen under high-resolution microscopes.

By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

  • name some animal cells that have distinctive shapes
  • describe how these distinctive shapes help the cells carry out their specialised roles
  • describe some of the features of cells (e.g. organelles) that are common to all cell types
  • discuss how model-building can aid understanding of cell structure and function
  • identify which microscopes scientists use to generate 3D cell images.

Download the Word file (see link above) for:

  • introduction/background notes
  • what you need
  • what to do
  • discussion questions
  • extension ideas
  • student handout.

Nature of Science

Scientists create and use models to help us more easily understand something that is mathematical, physical or conceptual. Models help scientists communicate with others and gain a better understanding of how things work.

Useful links

This website gives instructions on how to make 3D models of cells, which are then sliced, allowing students to examine the cross-sections.
www.galaxygoo.org/biochem/CellProject/cell_clay.html external link

Activity idea

Explore some of the main organelles within a cell, using your school as an analogy.
Inside a cell