The image is of the model of the partially full central vacuole.

Central Vacuole of Plant Cell with Structural Support Model

This simple model and related activities help students who are blind or visually impaired understand how the central vacuole of a plant cell helps the plant cell to remain firm.

While talking with a colleague about the structure of the plant cell and the function of the central vacuole, this simple model occurred to me. Materials needed are easily accessible and students will be able to better understand the concepts with related activities. 




Prepare materials as listed above:


  1. Buy 2 plants – same variety – I like to use ivys, but any plant that has fairly large leaves should work.  Allow one of the two plants to wilt over several weeks prior to this activity, but water the second plant.
  2. Fill one medium sized balloon with water so that it will fit snugly in the box.  Fill the 2nd one with much less water so that it will NOT fit snugly in the box.
  3. Cover the boxes with green construction paper or white paper and color it green. (See pictures.)


a paper tube with a white water balloon snugly within it
A model shows a full central vacuole.

a paper tube with a white water balloon inside of it, with plenty of space around it
A model shows a partially full central vacuole.

Related activity: 

When this model is presented to the students, present a fully watered plant with leaves.  Have students observe the leaves and ask if they believe the central vacuoles are full in the cells of the leaves.


Students may allow the plant to wilt over several weeks rather than the plant being presented already wilted.  In this case, students should be asked to hypothesize what will happen to the plant which is not watered. 

If time allows, students may write the answer to the final question in paragraph form after discussing it as a class. 

NGSS Standards:

Middle School – Structure and Function and Information Processing

LS1.A: Structure and Function

High School – Structure and Function

LS1.A: Structure and Function

By Laura Hospitál

Collage of central vacuole of plant cell

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