The Parts of a Cell
The Parts of a Cell
All living creatures are made up of many parts, but can you think of the smallest part of your body? It is a cell! Imagine building blocks; on their own, they are very small and don’t serve much purpose. However, when you put them all together, they help to create a larger and more useful structure. In the same manner, cells in plants, animals and humans work together to help us to function and live. If you looked at cells under a microscope, you would see that even cells are made up of very tiny parts! Let’s find out what cells are made up of.
All around the outside of the cell is a membrane. This helps to protect the cell from intrusive germs and viruses. The membrane also helps to hold all the parts of the cell together, and only allows certain chemicals to enter or leave. The membrane is quite flexible and acts in a similar manner to a balloon full of water.
The entire cell is filled with a goopy type of liquid known as cytoplasm. It provides a way of allowing all the other internal plant parts to float about. Cytoplasm mainly contains salt and water, which is exactly what many of the cell parts need to live.
At the core of a cell is the nucleus. The nucleus is a bit like the brain of the cell. It controls what the cell does and instructs it on its job. The nucleus is protected by a membrane, or a barrier, which is a bit like a skin. When a cell reproduces itself, the nucleus splits in half so that each new cell contains a nucleus.
Mitochondria are very important because they help the cell to survive by creating energy. If the cell is having a hard time surviving, it can simply create more mitochondria to help itself! Mitochondria are made up of two membranes. The first membrane surrounds the mitochondria, while the second one is wrapped into many layers inside. Without any mitochondria, the cell would simply lose its energy reserves and die.
Certain traits of people, such as your eye or hair color, are determined by your genes. Chromosomes are made up of many genes. Each of us receives half of our genes from our mothers and the other half from our fathers.
Vacuoles are another type of tiny organelle and they can be found in plant, animal and human cells. Vacuoles are like little trashcans and they usually hold waste products and any substances that are unhealthy for the rest of the cell. Vacuoles have to safely get rid of these substances in order to maintain a healthy balance inside the cell.
Unlike all of the other cell parts that we’ve discussed so far, chloroplasts are very special because they only exist in plant cells. You probably already know that plants need plenty of sunlight and carbon dioxide to live. Chloroplasts have the important job of converting that light and carbon dioxide into substances, such as glucose as a form of energy to sustain the plant.
Plant versus Animal Cells
If you look at how plants, animals and humans live, it is evident that plants survive in very different ways. Similarly, plant cells tend to be very different from those of animals and humans. Apart from the presence of chloroplasts, plant cells usually also have one main vacuole. On the other hand, animal and human cells may have several smaller ones. Plant cells are also further protected by having a special cell wall in addition to the standard cell membrane. When viewed under a microscope, plant cells usually look round in shape, while human and animal cells have a roughly rectangular shape.
- Label an Animal Cell - Drag the names onto the correct parts of the cell to label it.
- Animal Versus Plant Cells – Look at two interactive demonstrations of plant and animal cells and see if you can spot the main differences.
- Cell Element Functions– Review this handy list of cell parts and their various functions.
- Cell Membranes – Find out how cell membranes contain the inner parts of the cell and help to protect them.
- Cytoplasm and Sea Water – When the first cells were developing millions of years ago, they progressed in the sea. Due to this important part of their evolution, cytoplasm in our cells is still quite similar to sea water!
- Look Inside a Cell – Move your mouse over the diagram to see what lies inside a plant or animal cell, then click on the parts to learn more about them!
- Explore a Virtual Cell – Read quick explanations about each of the different parts of an animal cell in this virtual exploration.
- Parts of a Cell Activity Pack (PDF) – Download a fun activity pack for comics, games, activities and revision sheets about the parts of a cell.
- Cell Flash Cards (DOC) – Print and cut out a series of flash cards with image to help you remember what each part of the cell does.
- Delicious Cells! (PDF) – With this fun activity tutorial, kids can create an edible version of a cell to study its parts before eating it!
Written By: Edson Farnell | Email |