plant cells

Modeling a Plant Cell

The models used in this activity enable all students to create an accurate representation of plant cell structure.


To provide students with visual impairments with the opportunity to create an accurate representation of the shape and characteristics of plant cells

Background information:

Cells are not visible in daily life. In fact, even seeing cells through microscope only provides the student with a view of only a few of the parts of a plant or animal cell.  UDL stands for Universal Design for Learning. The cell models provide both tactile and kinesthetic feedback for students learning the structure of the cell.  The bright colors and good contrast also work well for students with low vision.



Prior to doing this activity, students read articles about the parts of a cell, learn the parts of a microscope, and practice preparing slides of plant cells.  Prepared slides may also be used.  Student will also benefit from examining 3D models of cells, and large print and tactile drawings of cells with parts labeled.

Tactile model of plant cell
Tactile model of plant cell

Students with useful vision may be able to look at the image of the cells on the monitor or television screen. Then students will use the parts of the cell kit to create a model of what they observed.   For the student whose lack of vision makes viewing the cell impossible, the teacher, assistant, or lab partner can construct the tactile model replicating the image on the screen.  The student then examines the model tactually.  Alternately, the student who has examined raised line drawings of cells can create a model using the kit. Then the lab partner can reshape the model to resemble the one being viewed.

For more information about the UDL Cell Model Kit visit


  1. View plant cells, then create model.
  2. Use the thick blue tube to represent the cell wall. Shape the cell wall to look like the viewed image.
  3. Use the thinner long yellow tube to represent the cell membrane.  Line the cell wall with the membrane.
  4. Use the other thin yellow tube creates the central vacuole of the plant cell.  The membrane of the central vacuole is not visible; however, the space occupied by the central vacuole is lacking chloroplasts so its location can be inferred.
  5. The nucleus is not shown because it is not visible using a typical classroom microscope, unless stain or contrast is added.
  6. Place the chloroplasts inside the cell membrane and outside the central vacuole.
  7. Compare the shape of the cell and arrangement of the cell parts to other students’ models. Note the differences and similarities.

NGSS Standards

LS1.A: Structure and Function


UDL Cell Model Guidebook, Springfield Technical Community College, 2010. Funded by a grant form the National Science  Foundation (NSF)

This activity was authored by Dawn Tamarkin, cell biology professor, Springfield Technical Community College.

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