Observing Cells

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In this playful activity, learners explore the structure of the cell—the basic unit of every living organism—by creating a model of cell structures using soap bubbles, and by examining a slice of onion under a magnifying glass. After blowing bubbles in soapy water, learners examine the shape of the bubbles and how they fit together to help them understand the shape of cells and the function of cell parts such as the cell membrane. Then learners attempt to identify cellular structures in onion slices. (They can try doing the same in other vegetables too, like celery or romaine lettuce.) This activity can be found on pages 18-19 of the activity guide. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on Archive.org.]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Worksheet – Observing Cells
  • Plastic cups
  • Straws
  • Dish soap and water
  • Magnifying glasses
  • Vidalia onion slice


  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
      • Cell Structure and Function
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • Science After School Consumer's Guide


  • All rights reserved, TERC, 2007

Funding Sources:

  • NASA, NAS5-26555
  • National Science Foundation, NSF 9730728