The Basic Unit of Life: Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cells (STEM)

Time Required: Two 60-minute sessions
Skill Level: Advanced
Recommended Grades: 9th to 12th

In this activity, students will work in pairs to doodle two cell models, one of a prokaryotic cell, and one of a eukaryotic cell. The students will build all parts in each model such as the nucleus, plasma, cytoplasm, mitochondrion, etc. The student pairs will analyze and record the differences and similarities between the cells.

Note: Any links outside of are optional resources. We can’t ensure their upkeep or accuracy.

Lesson Plan


Step 1

Discuss with the class the different organelles that make up prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and their functions.

Step 2

Pair students together. Let them know that they will be making their own cells, but discussing the functions of each organelle with their partner throughout the creation process.

Step 3

Encourage the pairs to distinguish the differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, and discuss them with each other. How are they different? What organelles are in one, but not the other? What organisms are made up of each type of cell?

Step 4

Discuss the difference between membrane-bound and non-membrane-bound organelles. Have students discuss with their partners what the difference is between a nucleus and a nucleoid.

Step 5

Discuss the DNA inside the prokaryotic cell and the three main parts of the eukaryotic cells (plasma “cell” membrane, nucleus, cytoplasm or cytosol). Have students discuss these characteristics with their partners.

Step 6

Instruct the pairs of students to review diagrams of the prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells in their textbooks, and handout the attached Basic Unit of Life Worksheet for each student to fill out.

Step 7

Display the instructions in the links below for students to see how to create the cell models.

How to Doodle a Prokaryotic Cell (Instructions)

How to Doodle a Eukaryotic Cell (Instructions)

Step 8

Handout the 3Doodler pens, ABS plastics (at least 7 colors) and the Color Coding Worksheet.

Step 9

Let students know that they will use the Color Coding Worksheet to assign colors of their choice to each cell constituent. Instruct students to begin Doodling their cells, and have the students in each pair discuss the different organelles as they are being Doodled.

Step 10

Circle to assist students as they doodle their cells and fill out their color coding worksheets. Ask the pairs questions about the functions of the organelles in their models. Encourage the students to work together to determine how to best represent all of the parts in the cells. Have students discuss the functions of the organelles as they doodle them.

Wrap Up

Students will build the models of their prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and fill out the worksheet. Students will share on Twitter. @3Doodler #3DoodlerEDU


The teacher will assess students’ work based on the cell models, written responses on the worksheet, as well as verbal responses.

Possible Extensions

Students can go to the Sheppard Software website to learn more about the function of the organelles within each cell. It is an interactive animation that is also a game and has a quiz to test their knowledge. Have each pair Doodle a model of a specific organelle, and ask the pair to give a report to the class on its functions. Have students Doodle each organelle separately as they discuss the functions of the organelle they are making. Optionally, the students can create the organelles in appropriate sizes for them to be assembled into another cell model.


  • capsule - A membranous sac or integument, especially surrounding partly or wholly a bodily structure or organ.

  • cell membrane - The cell’s outer membrane made up of a two layers of phospholipids with embedded proteins, and separates the contents of the cell from its outside environment, as well as regulates what enters and exits the cell.

  • cell wall - A membrane of the cell that forms external to the cell membrane whose main role is to give cells rigidity, strength and protection against mechanical stress. It is found in cells of plants, bacteria, archaea, fungi, and algae. Animals and most protists do not have cell walls.

  • eukaryotic cell - The cell of a eukaryote, i.e. an organism that possesses a membrane-bound nucleus.

  • flagellum - Long, slender, threadlike, whiplike extension of certain cells or unicellular organisms used mainly for movements.

  • membrane-enclosed nucleus - A membrane-enclosed nucleus is a characteristic of a eukaryotic cell. Eukaryotic cells have a membrane-enclosed nucleus and membrane-enclosed organelles. Organisms with eukaryotic cells (protists, plants, fungi, and animals) are called eukaryotes.

  • mitochondria - Any of various round or long cellular organelles of most eukaryotes that are found outside the nucleus, produce energy for the cell through cellular respiration, and are rich in fats, proteins, and enzymes.

  • nucleoid - The DNA-containing area of a prokaryotic cell (such as a bacterium).

  • nucleolus - A small body in the nucleus of a cell that contains protein and RNA and is the site for the synthesis of ribosomal RNA and for the formation of ribosomal subunits.

  • prokaryotic cell - (1) The cell of a prokaryote, i.e. an organism whose cell generally lacks a true nucleus. (2) Any cell characterized by features similar to a prokaryote.

  • ribosome - A structure composed of RNA and protein, present in large numbers in the cytoplasm of living cells and serving as the site for assembly of polypeptides encoded by messenger RNA.

Educational Standards

Common Core

Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

In This Lesson

Students will research information about the structures and parts of eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells.

Common Core

Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

In This Lesson

Students will base models of cells on their textbooks and in-class reflections.

Common Core

Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

In This Lesson

Students will compare and contrast eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells on a worksheet and together based upon their prior learning of the subject.

Next Gen Science

Develop and use a model to describe the function of a cell as a whole and ways the parts of cells contribute to the function.

In This Lesson

The students will build models of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and describe how they work as a whole and how the components of the cell contribute to the cell’s function (specifically the nucleus, mitochondria, cell membrane, and cell wall).


Use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.

In This Lesson

Students will use the 3Doodler pens to visually demonstrate the structure of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.


Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.

In This Lesson

Students build models of the cells and can refine the cell if determined that it is incorrect.


Exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.

In This Lesson

Students will work to answer questions and build the cell models.


Students break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models to understand complex systems or facilitate problem-solving.

In This Lesson

Students build the cell models by their individual components and understand and explain what each component does to better understand the cell systems as a whole.


Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.

In This Lesson

Students create models of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells using the 3Doodler pens and discuss those ideas via a worksheet and with a partner.


Students contribute constructively to project teams, assuming various roles and responsibilities to work effectively toward a common goal.

In This Lesson

Students will work together to answer questions and build the cell models.

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