This activity is best used following a short introduction to cells, but not a long, detailed lecture about cells. Students will be identifying cell organelles on the models (plant and animal) and describing their shape, structure, number and functions using the models provided in the classroom and their textbooks or online resources. Students will be required to draw, thereby developing their observation skills. Feel free to provide colored pencils so students can jazz up their sketches! Students will be required to think critically, making predictions about the function of a cell based on the number of a certain organelle. For example, why would some cells have more mitochondria than another?
This interactive laboratory/class activity will help students develop their observational and critical thinking skills while learning about cell organelles and relies on having models of plant and animal cells in the classroom. This activity is not specific to any brand of model and can be used with images from any textbook as well. This activity would be ideal as an inquiry-based introduction to cells or as a review of cells in upper-level biology courses. Additionally, students can work individually or in teams, thereby promoting teamwork and discussion.
This activity is a great prelude to a wet lab on cells where students make their own wet mount of onion cells and cheek cells.
Grades: I have used this activity with middle school students, high school and even introductory biology courses in college (as a review).
Time: Approximately an hour and a half for middle school but it can be split over two to three class periods. Approximately 50-60 minutes for high school.
Student Preparation: minimal but should include a short introduction to cells including the overall structure of most cells (nucleus, cytoplasm and plasma membrane).
Standards: Life Science: Cells
• Make observations and describe the structure and function of organelles found in plant and animal cells
• Identify the function of the major plant and animal cellular organelles
Grades 9-12 – use as review of previous material
• Identify the cellular organelles associated with major cell processes
College - Use as review in Introductory Biology courses
• Plant cell model (any brand)
• Animal cell model (any brand)
• Textbook or Online resource
• Colored pencils
Note: This activity only compares plant and animal cell and does not include fungi, protists or bacteria.
Your 18 page download will include the student activity (8 pages), answers (9 pages) and suggestions for usage in the classroom (1 page). Students will record their answers directly on the worksheets. Both the Word document (editable) and the pdf version are included.
I’d love to hear your feedback on this activity!