This post may contain affiliate links.
We love using NOEO, by Logos Press, for our science curriculum. This year we are working our way through the Biology 2 program. This curriculum lays out a weekly lesson plan for 4 days a week. I like to use the fifth day to add in fun projects related to our unit.
Recently we learned the parts of an animal cell. My goal was for the children to remember the main organelle names and their functions.
We read the pages in our science books and completed a coloring worksheet, but Hannah and Ben still had a hard time really memorizing the organelles.
I saw a few ideas floating around Pinterest about making a large-scale animal cell. Some people used play dough and some people used large styrofoam balls. I decided to make an animal cell cake. My kids seem to learn through their stomachs. Even if the lesson was a flop, at least there would be cake for dessert.
We baked two grain-free vanilla round cakes the night before we assembled our animal cell replica. Hannah is our resident baker. I gave her the recipe and she got to work. Baking is an excellent practical application for reading comprehension, measuring, and multiplying fractions.
I brought the kids to the grocery store and we wandered the candy aisle using our imagination while we tried to find candies that at least somewhat resembled the various organelles. I recommend buying the smallest size package of candy possible. My kids were very smooth, putting large packages of candy in the cart while exclaiming that these peanut butter cups were just like a nucleus. Before I knew it, we had almost $40 worth of candy. Candy that is still tempting me from the pantry. Learn from my mistake and buy the candies in single serving packages.
Once we had our cake and candy ready, it was time to assemble our animal cell.
Note: You can use any candy you want to designate different organelles. These are just the candies that worked well for us.
- Round cake, frosted with plain white icing
- Yellow icing (cytoplasm)
- Red Vines (cell wall)
- Pull ‘n’ Peel Twizzlers, orange (golgi complex)
- Pull ‘n’ Peel Twizzlers, red (endoplasmic reticula)
- Peanut butter cup (nucleus)
- Circle sprinkles (ribosome)
- Sweet Tarts (lysosome)
- Mike and Ike (mitochondrion)
- Jelly beans (vacuoles)
Steps to create an animal cell cake:
- First you will need to bake a round cake and frost it with plain white icing.
- Next, spread a thin layer of yellow icing around the entire cake. This symbolizes the cytoplasm.
- Now, wrap Red Vines around the perimeter of the cake. You may need to cut a Red Vine to fit smoothly. The Red Vine border represents the cell wall.
- Next, place the peanut butter cup in the middle of the cell. The outer chocolate layer represents the nucleus and the creamy peanut butter center acts as the nucleolus.
- Pull apart the Pull ‘n’ Peel Twizzlers to separate the orange and red vines. Tightly wind the orange pieces to create the Golgi complex. We nicknamed the golgi complex the ‘Amazon Warehouse’ as a way to remember that the golgi complex stores and distributes the substances made in the cell. Loosely wind the red vines to represent the endoplasmic reticulum. The endoplasmic reticulum is quite a mouthful for my third grader. We nicknamed the endoplasmic reticulum the ‘highways’ because it transports material around the cell.
- Place a few circle sprinkles around the yellow frosting and along the endoplasmic reticulum. The sprinkles represent the ribosomes.
- Next, place a few Sweet Tarts around the cake. The Sweet Tarts represent the lysosomes. We called the lysosomes the ‘bodyguards’ because they destroy invaders.
- Add a few Mike and Ikes to represent the mitochondria.
- Lastly, we added a couple of jelly beans to represent the vacuoles.
Once the animal cell cake was complete, I quizzed my kids on the various organelles. I named an organelle and gave them one M&M if they could correctly identify it and another if they could tell me the job. After a few rounds they both had the organelle structures and functions memorized. Candy is a powerful motivator.
I highly recommend the Usborne Science Encyclopedia and Usborne Complete Book of the Microscope. These books came with our NOEO science curriculum and I am so happy they did. Both of these books show the animal cell organelles in beautiful illustrations. We referred to these books frequently while we were creating our animal cell cake.
Have you ever made an animal cell model? Tell me how in the comments!
Organized Homeschooler is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com