Slimy Cells

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In this activity, learners solidify their conceptualization of cells by building a model of a cell in a ziplock bag. The three-dimensional nature of cells comes to life as learners use everyday objects to represent the many parts of a cell. In addition, learners can use this activity to develop a sense of scale, calculating how big a human would be if the ziplock bag cell model were really the size of a cheek cell. The quantities in the materials section are for a group for 30 learners. When choosing objects to represent organelles, it is best to avoid food items like beans and candy since they will decompose and grow mold inside slime, creating a disgusting mess. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 240 g PVA (catalog # P0154 from Flinn Scientific)
  • 75 g Borax (Sodium Tetraborate Decahydrate (Na2B4O7*10H2O), marketed as a “laundry booster” and found in most grocery stores and pharmacies among the laundry detergents)
  • water
  • several colors of food coloring
  • 30 ziplock sandwich bags
  • 9-12 empty water bottles with pop-top lids
  • 3-4 empty two liter soda bottles
  • 8-10 100 ml graduated cylinders
  • 8-10 50 ml beakers with gradations on the side
  • 3-4 trays or plastic bins for placing materials for making slime
  • large pot and stove (PVA requires heat to fully dissolve in water)
  • items to represent organelles (examples: large confetti, beads, pom-pom balls, styrofoam peanuts, paper clips, tin foil, bubble wrap, ribbon)
  • pint-size strawberry baskets (optional; used to model cell walls)
  • cell model handouts


  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
      • Cell Structure and Function
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Animals
  • Mathematics
    • Algebra
    • Measurement
      • Units of Measurement
      • Size and Scale
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Problem Solving

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Model Building


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Includes assesments for student learning:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Salter, Irene