The Jelly Bean Problem (JBP)

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In this activity, learners are challenged to eat some candy as a cell would need to as well as to think about some of the problems that arise when a cell ingests food. By solving this problem, learners simulate the cell process called endocytosis. Learners are highly motivated during this activity because they want to be the first to solve the problem and eat the candy! If available, learners can also observe Paramecium feeding on Congo red-stained yeast.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 14 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 1 plastic shopping bag
  • 1 pair of scissors
  • 15 cm of string
  • 4 pieces of wrapped candy
  • Paramecium (optional)


  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
      • Cell Structure and Function
      • Cell Metabolism
    • Diversity of Life
      • Protists and Fungi
  • Mathematics
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Problem Solving

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Westover, Glenn