By Michelle Dalton, October 2, 2007

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • Architecture

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Science

Lesson Time

Three to four forty-minute class periods


This lesson introduces students to the parts of a plant cell before they learn the names. By creating a town as a model for a plant cell, students can attach a vocabulary word to a concept. Because most students live-in or are familiar with cities, the comparison of the parts of a cell to a town will help them better understand the necessary parts of the cell. This outside context will help students get to know the definitions of the words. Students will work in groups to design a product with the constraint of limited materials and time.

National Standards

Standard 5. Understands the structure and function of cells and organisms Level III. 2. Knows that cells convert energy obtained from food to carry on the many functions needed to sustain life (e.g., cell growth and division, production of materials that the cell or organism needs) Standard 4. Understands the nature of technological design Level III. Designs a solution or product, taking into account needs and constraints (e.g., cost, time, trade-offs, properties of materials, safety, aesthetics)
Language Arts
Standard 8. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes Level III. 1. Plays a variety of roles in group discussions (e.g., active listener, discussion leader, facilitator)
Life Skills Working With Others
Standard 1. Contributes to the overall effort of a group Level IV. 2. Works cooperatively within a group to complete tasks, achieve goals, and solve problems Standard 5. Identifies and uses the individual strengths and interests of others to accomplish team goals Standard 7. Helps the group establish goals, taking personal responsibility for accomplishing such goals Standard 8. Evaluates the overall progress of a group toward a goal

Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts Standards: Science & Technical Subjects 

Grade 6-8    

Key Ideas and Details:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.3 Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.
  • Craft and Structure:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.8 Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.9 Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.
  • Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.10 By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

English Language Arts Standards: Speaking and Listening

Grade 6-8

Comprehension and Collaboration:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.1.A Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.2 Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.3 Delineate a speaker's argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and relevance and sufficiency of the evidence and identifying when irrelevant evidence is introduced.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.5 Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6-8.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grade 8 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)



Students will:
  • make connections between prior knowledge (what they know about towns) and new information (what they will learn about the parts of a plant cell)
  • define the parts of a plant cell
  • work in groups to accomplish a common goal
  • attach a 3-D value to a vocabulary term
  • create a model of a town/cell with constraints of time and materials


Glencoe Science Life's Structure and Function text Directions handout (attached) "Cell-Town Match Up" pages 1 and 2 (attached) Reflection questions (attached) "After the Town" question set (group evaluation)


found objects (e.g. twist ties, clay, plastic newspaper bags, shoe boxes, newspapers, cardboard rolls (toilet paper, paper towels), lids of various shapes and sizes, cotton balls, aluminum foil, cupcake holders, mesh fabric (can use onion bags), craft sticks, cardboard, tape, glue)


nucleus, mitochondria, chloroplast, vacuole, cell membrane, cell wall, cytoplasm, endoplasmic reticulum, golgi bodies, ribosomes


  • Sort the materials and place them on a table. You may want to sort them out so that each group has a starter set of materials (3 rolls, tape, glue, piece of cardboard on which to build their town, craft sticks, a square of aluminum foil...contents will vary according to what is available). You can give each group a brown paper bag to use as a "toolbox" to keep their directions, rough draft, and supplies.
  • As a class, brainstorm what a town needs in order to be successful. List class suggestions on the board.
  • Break the class up into groups.
  • Explain to the students that they will be working in groups to design and model a town using the town parts described on the direction sheet. The town they design is a fictional town will not exist until the year 3012 (this will allow students more freedom to be creative).
  • In groups, the students should first sketch out a map of where each part of their town might go. Provide each group feedback and give them time to make changes to their map.
  • In the next class, groups should begin to build their town using their map as a guide. Students may need more than one class period to build their towns.
  • In the next class, have students present their town to the class per the direction sheet.
  • After each group has presented, place the towns together on the floor (this will further the idea that the towns are a model of cells).
  • Once all groups present, discuss how the towns are models of plant cells. Encourage students to think about why we need to study models of cells (because cells are too small to study otherwise). Next, talk about how the cells come together to form tissue; tissue comes together to form organs; organs come together to form organ systems; organ systems come together to form organisms. Take a picture of the cell towns when they are all together.
  • Then, have each group define the parts of the cell represented in the towns.
  • Pass out the “Cell-Town Match Up”. Read through the directions and have students cut out and match the cell organelle names to the parts of the town. Discuss.
  • For homework, assign the “After the Town” questions to be answered on loose-leaf.
  • Finally, have students answer the questions for reflection.


Create a class rubric with your students that will help them understand the effectiveness of their design. Use the following guidelines to help create the rubric. -How effective was your brainstorming in generating ideas? -Rate the quality of your cell town model. -Rate how effectively you presented your cell-town model. -Rate the quality of your personal participation. -How effective was your group in working together?
Students can be assessed by their participation in brainstorming and building the towns and can by graded by group members with the use of a rubric (should be created by the students before beginning the project, but after reading the directions). They can also be assessed on their completion of the “Cell Town Match Up,” and completion of the “After the Town” and reflection questions.

Enrichment Extension Activities

As a class, think about what happens to the parts of a town when they become worn out and have students use their towns as a model to describe the function of the lysosome.

Teacher Reflection

My students and I enjoyed this activity. It would have been more helpful to spend more time with students explaining the purpose of studying the model. I might also change the assignment so that some groups are making a model of the animal cell while others are creating a plant cell model in order to compare the two. This assignment required a lot of planning and set-up and I would like to involve the students in helping with the initial sorting of the materials.

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.