Learn At Our Historic Mill

Understanding Plant Cells




Learn to identify and label the parts of a plant cell and experience using microscopes and preparing slides.


Students will draw and label a plant cell and will prepare slides with sawdust specimens to view under a microscope.



  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes
  • Class Time: 35-45 minutes


  • Hand out one sheet of white paper to each student.
  • Have students draw their own tree cell based on the diagram.
  • Ask students to label their cells. You may wish to choose specific organelles to focus on in order to shorten the assignment if there are time constraints.
  • Review how to prepare slide specimens for viewing under a microscope.
  • Divide students into pairs or small groups.
  • Ask each group to assemble the appropriate materials to prepare a slide.
  • Ask each group to prepare a slide with sawdust.
    • Ask the students to look at the sawdust under a microscope to identify real plant cells.

    • Ask what they see on the slide.
    • Have the students experiment with high and low power and ask them to describe the differences that they see.
  • Have the students pick up the materials.
  • Explain to students that you will be visiting the Hanford Mills Museum, and that you will see how trees were processed at the Mill during the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century.


  • Class participation in discussions and activities (speaking and listening)
  • Diagrams of cells
  • Demonstration of skills in using microscope

NYS Learning Standards:

  • ELA Standard 1
  • Math, Science and Tech. Standard 4

Vocabulary & Spelling Words:

Cell Membrane – n. a membrane that lies between the cell wall and the cytoplasm. It is permeable and regulates the entry and exit of substances.

Cell Wall – n. the outermost covering of the plant cell made up of cellulose. It protects the cell and provides support.

Cellulose – n. the chief material of plant cell walls.

Chlorophyll – n. a substance that captures energy from sunlight, and turns it into food for the plant by the process of photosynthesis.

Chloroplast – n. an organelle containing chlorophyll.

Cytoplasm – n. a mixture of water and soluble organic and inorganic compounds between the cell membrane and the nucleus, containing most of the cell organelles. It is the place where all the functions and activities take place in the cell.

Dictyosome – – n. the set of flattened membranes in a cell, resembling a stack of plates. It secretes hormones and enzymes.

Endoplasmic Reticulum – n. a network of tubular membranes within the cytoplasm of the cell, occurring either with a smooth surface (smooth endoplasmic reticulum) or studded with ribosomes (rough endoplasmic reticulum), involved in the transport of materials and support of the plant cell.

Membrane – n. the thin covering of a cell or cell part.

Mitochondrion – n. an organelle in the cytoplasm of cells that function in energy production.

Nuclear Membrane – n. the double membrane surrounding the nucleus within a cell.

Nucleolus – n. a round body in the nucleus that synthesizes proteins.

Nucleoplasm – n. the dense fluid of the nucleus of a cell.

Nucleus – n. a specialized, usually spherical mass of dense fluid encased in a double membrane within the cell. It controls the cell’s growth, metabolism, and reproduction, and contains large amounts of DNA.

Organelle – n. a specialized part of a cell having some specific function; a cell organ

Photosynthesis – n. the synthesis of complex organic materials from carbon dioxide, water, and inorganic salts, using sunlight as the source of energy and with the aid of chlorophyll.

Ribosome – n. a tiny organelle occurring in the cell. They manufacture protein.

Vacuole – n. a membrane-bound cavity within a cell filled with fluids. It helps in the storage of water and other substances.