Cell Membrane Project

A cell membrane project is one of the best ways to help your child understand their lesson on cells. Additionally, building a 3d model of the cell membrane helps kids understand more about the cell membrane, it’s different parts and their functions. DIY projects and science experiments for kids is a great way to reinforce science lessons and concepts. The cell membrane, which is also known as the plasma membrane, is the thin outer covering of the cell. This semi-permeable membrane, which covers the cell, acts as a barrier and protects the cell.

The cell is the smallest unit of a living thing; they’re the basic building blocks of life. Each animal or plant body is made up of millions of cells. These cells perform specialized functions to keep the body running and the organism alive. It absorbs nutrients from food and converts them into energy, and also provides the structure for the body. Each cell is made up of several different parts, and one of the most important parts of the cell is the cell membrane. Learn more about the cell membrane by building a 3d model of the plasma membrane with this cell membrane project.

In this article, explore:

What is the Cell Membrane?

The cell membrane or the plasma membrane is the covering of a cell. It encloses the cell’s components and acts as a barrier that separates the cell from its environment. The thin membrane is made up of mostly proteins, carbohydrates and fatty acid-based lipids. The lipids are of two kinds: phospholipids and sterols. These lipids have a special property called the “amphiphilic property,” which means they both have a water-soluble region and a lipid-soluble region. 

While the cell membrane is flexible, it also acts as a formidable barrier that protects the inside of the cell. It allows some dissolved substances to pass through while blocking other substances. The cell membrane has 4 main functions: 

  1. It acts as a protective barrier that delimits the cell from its surroundings. 
  2. It acts as a gate that allows nutrients and certain dissolved substances to pass through and blocks other substances that could harm the cell.
  3. Allows the discharge of waste products from the cell.
  4. It helps support the cell and maintains its shape.

Structure of the Cell Membrane

The structure of the cell membrane is made up of:

  1. Globular proteins
  2. Glycoproteins
  3. Carbohydrate sugar chain
  4. Protein channel (transport protein)
  5. Surface protein
  6. Peripheral proteins
  7. Integral membrane proteins
  8. Alpha-helix protein
  9. Cholesterol
  10. Glycolipid
  11. Filaments of cytoskeleton
  12. Phospholipid bilayer
    • Hydrophilic head
    • Hydrophobic tail

Functions of the Lipids and Proteins in the Cell Membrane


  1. Phospholipids: Phospholipids are one of the most important components of a cell membrane. They form a lipid bilayer with a hydrophilic head and hydrophobic tail. The hydrophilic head, which is attracted to water, arranges itself to face the aqueous cytosol and the extracellular fluid. The hydrophobic tail that repels water faces away from the cytosol and extracellular fluid. This bilayer is semi-permeable and allows only certain substances to pass through the cell membrane.
  2. Glycolipids: These lipids, which are on the surface of the cell membrane, have a carbohydrate sugar chain attached to them and help in recognizing the other cells of the body.
  3. Cholesterol: Cholesterol molecules are only present in the animal cell membranes. These molecules prevent phospholipids from being too closely packed together, which ensures the cell membranes remain flexible and do not become stiff.


  1. Structural proteins: These proteins are responsible for giving the cell its shape and supporting it.
  2. Transport proteins: These proteins help transport molecules across the cell membrane.
  3. Glycoproteins: These proteins, which have a carbohydrate chain attached to them, help communicate between cells and transport molecules.
  4. Receptor proteins: Receptor molecules help in communicating with the external environment.

Cell Membrane Project: How to Build a 3D Model of the Cell Membrane?

The easiest way to understand the lesson on cells and the cell membrane is by doing a cell membrane project. Kids get to build a 3d model of the plasma membrane and label the different parts of the thin membrane. This helps them learn the different functions and their importance.

Aim of the Project

The aim of this cell membrane project is to build a 3D working model of the cell membrane and label its parts.

Things You’ll Need

Here is a list of things for the cell membrane project:

  • 30 small styrofoam balls
  • 12 toothpicks
  • 2 straws
  • 20 pipe cleaners
  • Yellow-colored beads 
  • Flat cardboard
  • Glue
  • Purple paint and paint brushes
  • Craft knife
  • Toothpick flags


  1. Take a toothpick and glue a styrofoam ball on each end of the toothpick. Repeat with the other styrofoam balls and toothpicks until you have 12 toothpicks with styrofoam balls on both ends.
  2. Wrap each of the toothpicks with pipe cleaners loosely. This represents the phospholipid bilayer.
  3. Now stand the styrofoam balls and toothpicks upright and glue them close to each other on the flat cardboard. Ensure that you have 3 rows and 4 columns of styrofoam ball covered toothpicks. This is the cell membrane.
  4. Make carbohydrate sugar chains with 1 pipe cleaner. Cut the pipe cleaner into 3 parts. Glue yellow beads on each of them and stick them into the cell membrane in different directions.
  5. Cut the straw to the same height as the cell membrane structure and insert it in the first row to show the cell membrane receptor protein.
  6. Cut the remaining styrofoam balls in half. Paint them purple and allow them to dry. Glue them to the top of the cell membrane to show globular proteins. Stick a pipe cleaner with yellow beads into one of these styrofoam balls and glue it on top to represent glycoproteins.
  7. Label your model of the cell membrane using the toothpick flags. Your 3D model of the cell membrane is now ready.

We hope you found this cell membrane project idea useful. For more science projects, activities, games and worksheets that make learning fun, check our kids learning section.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Cell Membrane Project

What is a cell membrane?

The cell membrane or the plasma membrane is the thin, semi-permeable membrane that surrounds the cytoplasm of the cell. It protects the components of the cell from the outside and allows nutrients and some substances to pass through, while blocking others. It also supports the cell and gives the cell its shape.

What is the plasma membrane made of?

The plasma membrane is made up of proteins, fatty-acid based lipids and carbohydrates.

How does the cell membrane project help kids?

This DIY science project reinforces the lesson on cells and cell membranes for kids. It helps students learn about the components of the cell membrane and its functions.