Single-Cell Life

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In this activity, learners create a soil and water model of a single-cell life environment and study living microorganisms. Over a period of many days, learners observe the interaction of soil, water and living organisms. This activity helps illustrate the concept that the simplest creatures consist of only one cell. This activity can be found on pages 22-23 of the activity guide. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 7 days

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

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Worksheet – Single Cell Life
  • Research Sheet in Resource section (copies)
  • empty 32-ounce plastic soda bottle
  • utility knife or scissors
  • measuring cup
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 cups of potting soil
  • cup of gravel
  • 1 rubber band
  • Plastic wrap
  • Masking tape
  • Colored markers
  • Magnifying glass or microscope (if available)
  • Small paper plates
  • eyedropper


  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
      • Cell Structure and Function
    • Diversity of Life
      • Protists and Fungi
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations

Informal Categories

  • Model Building
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • 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