ALEX Learning Activity


Animal Cell Models

A Learning Activity is a strategy a teacher chooses to actively engage students in learning a concept or skill using a digital tool/resource.

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  This learning activity provided by:  
Author: Jessica Freeland
Organization:University of South Alabama
  General Activity Information  
Activity ID: 1686
Animal Cell Models
Digital Tool/Resource:
Anatomy of an Animal Cell
Web Address – URL:

Students will review the parts of an animal cell using the "Anatomy of an Animal Cell" webpage, and will then use their knowledge of animal cells to create a three-dimensional model of an animal cell.

This activity was created as a result of the Arts COS Resource Development Summit.

  Associated Standards and Objectives  
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 7
Life Science
3 ) Construct an explanation of the function (e.g., mitochondria releasing energy during cellular respiration) of specific cell structures (i.e., nucleus, cell membrane, cell wall, ribosomes, mitochondria, chloroplasts, and vacuoles) for maintaining a stable environment.

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
L8.1b: All organisms are composed of cells, from one cell only to many cells. About two-thirds of the weight of cells is accounted for by water, which gives cells many of their properties. In multicellular organisms, specialized cells perform specialized functions. Organs and organ systems are composed of cells and function to serve the needs of cells for food, air, and waste removal. The way in which cells function is similar in all living organisms.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
Crosscutting Concepts: Structure and Function
Disciplinary Core Idea: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Use multiple valid and reliable sources for evidence.
  • Explain, based on gathered evidence, the function of specific cell structures and how each organelle helps to maintain a stable environment.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Explanation
  • Structure
  • Function
  • Organelle
  • Nucleus
  • Cell membrane
  • Cell wall
  • Ribosome
  • Mitochondria
  • Chloroplast
  • Vacuole
  • Homeostasis
  • System
  • Valid
  • Reliable
Students know:
  • Function of organelles (i.e., nucleus, cell membrane, cell wall, ribosome, mitochondria, chloroplast, vacuole).
  • Roles of organelles in maintaining a stable environment.
  • Key differences between animal and plant cells (e.g., Plant cells have a cell wall, chloroplasts, etc.).
Students are able to:
  • Articulate a statement that relates a given phenomenon to a scientific idea, including how different parts of a cell contribute to how the cell functions as a whole, both separately and together with other structures.
Students understand that:
  • The function of an organelle contributes to the overall function of the cell, both separately and together with other organelles, to maintain a stable environment.
  • Organelles function together as parts of a system (the cell).
  • Organelles function together as parts of a system that determines cellular function.
  • Energy is required to maintain a stable environment.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Investigating Biodiversity and Interdependence
Studying the Development and Reproduction of Organisms

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.7.3- Label the nucleus of a cell in a cell diagram; distinguish at least one structural difference between plant and animal cells (e.g., cell wall, chloroplasts); match specific cell structures (e.g., nucleus, cell wall, cell membrane) with their functions.

Arts Education
ARTS (2017)
Grade: 7
Visual Arts
2) Develop and implement criteria to guide making a work of art or design to meet an identified goal.

Example: Students make a group checklist for completion to include technical steps, use of materials, subject matter and compositional strategies.

Unpacked Content
Artistic Process: Creating
Anchor Standards:
Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
Process Components: Investigate, Plan, Make
Essential Questions:
EU: Artists and designers shape artistic investigations, following or breaking with traditions in pursuit of creative artmaking goals.
EQ: How does knowing the contexts, histories, and traditions of art forms help create works of art and design? Why do artists follow or break from established traditions? How do artists determine what resources and criteria are needed to formulate artistic investigations?
Concepts & Vocabulary:
  • Artistic processes
  • Various approaches to art making
  • Artist statement
  • Copyright Laws
  • Fair Use Responsibility
  • Plagiarize
  • Reflecting
  • Revising
  • Audience and Purpose
  • Critique
  • Visual Organization
  • Context
  • Technology
  • Mount
Skill Examples:
  • Demonstrate how to create a think -map to assist with creative blocks.
  • Discuss collaboratively various ideas and innovations that can overcome the creative block and develop ideas.
  • Look at examples of work by student and/artists to gain inspiration.
  • Develop and apply critical thinking skills to create a work of art that communicates an identified goal.
  • Work alone or collaboratively to design a travel poster.
  • Demonstrate perseverance in order to create high quality works of art.
  • Plan, sketch and revise in the process of creating a work of art.
  • Demonstrate various techniques in watercolor painting such as wet-on-wet, dry brush, wet-on-dry, and flat wash.
  • Examine and describe the use and misuse of the practice of appropriating copyrighted artworks and designs in their artwork.
  • Demonstrate care of materials, tools, and equipment when creating works of art.
  • Use visual organization skills to design a flyer for a community function.
  • Write an artist statement for a body of one's own original completed artwork.
  • Demonstrate visual arts vocabulary in an artist's journal when reflecting on their own processes and artwork.
Learning Objectives:

Students will recall and explain prior knowledge regarding the function of specific cell structures within an animal cell.

Students will create a checklist that will guide them in creating a three-dimensional work of art (animal cell model).

  Strategies, Preparations and Variations  

The students will:

1.) review the parts of an animal cell using the digital tool provided. 

2.) create a plan that will guide them in developing a three-dimensional model of an animal cell using classroom- or student-supplied materials. Students will decide what media or objects they will use to represent the various cell parts and how they will assemble their models.

Example: Students may be provided with styrofoam half-spheres which they can paint or decorate with clay, model magic, fabric paint, glitter, string, etc. to represent the parts of the animal cell. 

3.) use their selected materials to implement their plan to create their animal cell models.

4.) create a list of cell parts which will be cut out and attached to the corresponding cell part in order to identify it. Labels can be attached using glue, map pins, toothpicks, etc.

5.) write a list that corresponds to the identified animal cell parts and describe their functions.

Assessment Strategies:

Determine if the students have prior knowledge of animal cell parts and functions by analyzing the created animal cell models and the corresponding list of animal cell part descriptions.

Determine if the students created and followed a guide, or implementation plan, to create their models by analyzing the plan compared to their final models.

Advanced Preparation:

Students will have already learned about the parts of an animal cell and their functions.

Students should be told about the project at least a week in advance so that they are able to begin creating their project plan and gathering the materials they would like to use.

To account for students that may be unable to procure materials to create a cell model, the following are suggested items to have on hand:

  • Styrofoam half-spheres
  • Paint (blue, brown, etc.)
  • Model Magic or clay
  • Fabric paint
  • Craft supplies such as glitter, yarn, sequins, etc.
Variation Tips (optional):

Instead of animal cells, let the students create models of plant cells. Or, let the students choose which type of cell they would like to create and have them compare and contrast the two, both in their functions and in their appearance.

Notes or Recommendations (optional):

If not enough time is available for students to create their models in class, give them time (and supplies, if needed) to create them at home and then present their plans and models to the class at a later date.

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