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Cell Structures - Wee Beasties

This activity should provide you with knowledge about the parts of cells. You are to observe a variety of cells seen through a microscope. For each cell, you should describe the cell in detail. Typical scientist's observations of cells include detailed drawings. By the conclusion of this activity, you should recognize the visible differences between plant and animal cells as seen through a microscope.

You will observe plant and animal cells. You may do so either by using online photographs or you may be allowed to make your own slides.

What visible characteristics are different as you observe plant cells and compare them with animal cells?


  • Online option:
  • Microscope option
    • Microscope
    • Prepared microscope slides of animal specimens
    • Prepared microscope slides of plant specimens or student prepared microscope slides
    • Blank microscope slides
    • Cover slip
    • Water
    • Plant specimens (e.g. Elodea, Duckweed, or Filamentous algae)


  1. If preparing your own slide, follow these instructions:
  • Carefully place one drop of water on the microscope slide.
  • Place a small piece of plant material on the water droplet (tear the plant with your fingers to get a rough edge on the specimen).
  • Gently lower the cover slip at an angle so the water holds it tight to the microscope slide.
  1. Look closely at each slide at low power (typically 40x) and then draw what you observe.
  2. Identify the cells drawn as a "plant" or an "animal" cell.
  3. Increase the microscope magnification to medium power (typically 100x) and draw a picture of what you observe.
  4. Increase the magnification to high power (typically 400x) and draw the more detailed view you now see. Be careful as you focus so that you do NOT break your microscope slide!

Safety concerns: Be sure to follow all glassware safety rules that are specified by your teacher in all general laboratory experiences. As with all science lab activities, the most important safety rule is to follow all teacher directions.


  1. What did you observe in plant cells that was not visible in animal cells?
  2. Were there any cells you observed which were difficult to identify as plant or animal?
    • If so why?
  3. By what visible characteristics would you use to identify plant cells?
utah state board of education This Sci-ber Text was developed by the Utah State Board of Education and Utah educators.