Parts of a Cell: Learn Anatomy With a Fun Pizza Activity!

Cell Anatomy Pizza Parts of a cell pizza activity - labeled diagram

The cell is the smallest living unit of your body, but you can take a close-up look at it today! All parts of the cell have important jobs, but they also work together. With a fun and simple pizza-making activity, we can learn all about cell anatomy.

Learn all about the parts of a cell with pizza!

With food from your home, you can find ingredients shaped like parts of a real human cell.

This might be the most delicious way to learn about your cells.

Safety first! Remember to double-check ingredients and avoid any food allergies.

Ingredients for cell pizza anatomy activity

Just like your body, your cells have little organs that work together. These mini organs are called organelles.

Here are some ingredients that are similar to the shape of cell organelles.

  • CELL – Pizza dough, tortilla, naan bread, flatbread
  • CYTOPLASM – Tomato sauce
  • NUCLEUS – Pepperoni, salami, large mozzarella cheese slice
  • GOLGI BODIES – Sliced bell peppers, basil, onions
  • RIBOSOMES – Shredded cheese, capers
  • LYSOSOMES OR VESICLES – Cherry tomatoes, cheese balls, olives
  • MICROTUBULES – Sausages, shredded carrots
  • MITOCHONDRIA – Mushrooms, lima beans

If you have any dietary restrictions, replace the examples from this cell anatomy pizza recipe with something you can safely eat. For example, if you have a food allergy, you can use vegan cheese instead of dairy cheese.

Now, it’s time to get creative and prepare the recipe. Then, fill up your brain and belly with tasty anatomy facts!

fun science activity: how to make an edible cell anatomy model

How to make a cell anatomy pizza model in 10 steps

Follow these steps to make a cell pizza while learning how the parts of a cell work. As you add each ingredient, think of the cell as a little city with busy organelle workers everywhere!

Step 1. Set up the pizza cell

Put the tortilla, dough, or your favorite round pizza base on a large dinner plate. Remember to leave some space for a pizza crust around the edges; this will be the cell membrane. In the human cell, the cell membrane acts like a gate. Energy and nutrients can pass the cell membrane into the cell, while waste products are removed.

Step 2: Make cytoplasm

Step 2. Spread the cytoplasm

In a real human cell, the cytoplasm is a clear, jelly-like liquid that fills up the inside of a cell. Cytoplasm is mainly made of water, and all organelles float in it.

Now, it’s time to prepare the cytoplasm. Spread tomato sauce around the pizza cell to create cytoplasm.

Step 3: Add the nucleus

Step 3. Add the nucleus

The nucleus is your cell’s boss, and it contains most of your cell’s DNA and chromosomes. The nucleus is in charge of all of the activities going on in the cell. It also decides whether the cell should grow, divide, or die.

If you’d like, put a large piece of pepperoni or salami toward the middle of the cell. This is the nucleus.

Feel free to use your imagination and extra ingredients for the DNA molecules! (Not pictured here.)

Step 4: Add the endoplasmic reticulum

Step 4. Add the endoplasmic reticulum

Next to the nucleus is a network of tubules called the endoplasmic reticulum, which are the onions on this pizza. Humans have two types of endoplasmic reticulum with different jobs: rough and smooth. Cells that make a lot of protein have a lot of rough endoplasmic reticulum. Cells that make a lot of fat have lots of smooth endoplasmic reticulum.

Covered in ribosomesNo ribosomes
Makes lots of proteinMakes lots of fat or breaks things down
Pancreas cells make proteins like insulin; white blood cells make antibodies.Ovary cells and testicle cells make steroid hormones
Step 5: Add the golgi apparatus

Step 5. Add the Golgi body

Let’s move on to the endoplasmic reticulum’s neighbor! The Golgi body is sometimes called the Golgi apparatus or Golgi complex.

This organelle acts like a factory. It processes proteins and packages them into vesicles. The Golgi bodies also make lysosomes.

Whew! The Golgi bodies sure are busy!

Garnish the pizza with a bunch of basil leaves to represent the Golgi body.

Step 6: Add some ribosomes

Step 6. Sprinkle ribosomes everywhere

In your cell, the little round ribosomes make proteins for the cell to work.

Each human cell has lots of ribosomes scattered throughout the cytoplasm. Ribosomes are also attached to the rough endoplasmic reticulum.

Cover your pizza cell with bits of shredded parmesan cheese or vegan cheese. Capers would also make great ribosomes. Can you think of other pizza toppings that are shaped like ribosomes?

Step 7: Add some vesicles

Step 7. Add vesicles

After leaving the Golgi body, it’s time for vesicles to get to work! The human cell has a few types of vesicles:

  • Transport vesicles carry protein and other materials to different parts of the cell.
  • Secretory vesicles take materials out of the cell. For example, the nerve cell has special secretory vesicles that release chemical messages called neurotransmitters outside of the cell. Nerve cells use neurotransmitters to talk to each other!

On your pizza, add something small and round, like mozzarella cheese balls, to represent different vesicles.

Step 8: Add some lysosomes

Step 8. Add lysosomes

Clean-up time! Lysosomes are actually a special type of vesicle that acts like garbage-collectors. Their job is to pick up waste and get rid of it. Lysosomes also break down cells that are ready to die.

Can you think of another food that is small and round? Cherry tomatoes can be the lysosomes of your pizza cell.

Step 9: Add a few microtubules

Step 9. Add microtubules

Microtubules are stick-shaped organelles in the human cell. They have many important jobs:

  • They give shape to each cell.
  • They help certain cells move.
  • They act like roads for vesicles and other organelles to travel along.
  • They help a cell divide into two cells.

For your pizza cell, you can add ingredients like sausages, hot peppers, or other stick-shaped food.

Step 10: Add mitochondria onto the cell pizza model

Step 10. Add mitochondria

Last but not least, we have the mighty mitochondria! Because the mitochondria’s job is to make energy, scientists usually call mitochondria the “powerhouse of the cell”. How do mitochondria make energy? By combining glucose with oxygen.

The amount of mitochondria a cell has depends on how much energy it needs. For example, muscle cells have tons of mitochondria.

Mitochondria have an oval shape – kind of like sliced mushrooms! Chop extra mushrooms if your cell needs more energy.

close up view of the mitochondria in a human cell

Mitochondria – the powerhouse of the cell

Bake and eat the DIY cell pizza model

Now you might be wondering how to cook the cell pizza. This depends on the instructions of the base that you used.

For example, if you bought a pizza crust, follow the baking directions listed on the box.

After your cell pizza model is fully cooked, it’s time to devour your delicious science project!

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Updated on November 18, 2023 by Betty Choi, MD

Updated on November 18, 2023 by Betty Choi, MD