Last week, we did a hands-on science project that I’ve been looking forward to for weeks – we made an edible cell model. Our science text had instructions for a Plaster of Paris model, but I’m somewhat opposed to projects I have to store – and very much in favor of those we can eat!
Ingredients for an Edible Cell Model
- Cake mix (and ingredients to make it)
- Vanilla icing
- Food coloring
- Various candies to represent organelles
- Toothpicks and mailing labels for labeling the organelles
- Blue Mike and Ikes = mitochondria
- Pink Mike and Ikes = smooth endoplasmic reticulum
- War Heads = vacuoles
- Air Heads Xtremes = rough endoplasmic reticulum
- Sour gummy worms = Golgi apparatus
- Candy disc sprinkles = ribosomes
- Cupcake = nucleus
How to Make an Edible Cell Model
Step 1: Bake the cake mix according to package directions. We used round cake pans since we were doing an animal cell model. We also used a little of the batter to make one cupcake to represent the nucleus. Allow the cakes to cool completely, then, assemble as normal with some of the icing in between.
Step 2: Use food coloring to tint the icing so that you have one color to represent the cytoplasm, a second to represent the cell membrane, and a third to represent the nucleus. We chose to use colors that would mix easily to form new colors, so that we wouldn’t have to divide the icing and guesstimate how much we’d need for each beforehand, so those are the instructions I’ll include for you.
Add a few drops of yellow food coloring to the vanilla frosting and mix well. This is for the cytoplasm. Frost the the top of the cake only with the yellow icing.
Next, add a few drops of blue to the yellow-tinted icing to create green. Frost the sides of the cake only with green. This presents the cell membrane.
Finally, add a few more drops of food coloring to the remaining icing to create a color to represent the nucleus. We chose to add red, which created a rather unappetizing color. I’ll leave that last color to your discretion.
Cut the cupcake in half and place the top half on the top of the cake to represent the nucleus and frost it. You can discard the other cupcake half if you chose. I recommend, however, that you put a little leftover icing on it and eat it while your kids aren’t looking!
Step 3: Place the candies on the cake to represent the cell’s organelles. As we placed each candy on the cake, we reviewed the job of the organelles.
- Pink Mike and Ikes = smooth endoplasmic reticulum. This is where the lipids that from the cell membrane are made.
- Blue Mike and Ikes = mitochondria. These are the powerhouses of the cell, where energy is created.
- Candy disc sprinkles = ribosomes. They create the proteins that are used in the cell.
- Airhead Xtremes = rough endoplasmic reticulum. These are the “conveyor belts” that take the protein created by the ribosomes to the Golgi apparatus.
- Sour gummy worms = Golgi apparatus. This is where the simple proteins are assembled into more complex proteins.
- War Heads = vacuoles. These are the storage closets of the cell, where supplies and waste are stored.
- Yellow icing = cytoplasm, the jelly-like substance inside the cell.
- Green icing = cell membrane, the part of the cell that encloses and protects it.
- Cupcake = nucleus, where the cell’s DNA resides.
Step 4: Use the toothpicks and labels to make flags to label the organelles. As you label each, review the organelle and its job again.
Step 5: Take lots of pictures…then, eat it!
Did you enjoy this hands-on project? You can find lots more ideas for hands-on fun in my e-book Hands-On Learning, which includes 10 full-color, step-by-step tutorials and dozens of ideas for cross-curricular, hands-on activities.
Have fun learning together!