Plant and Animal Cells, part 2
Last time we looked at the similarities between plant and animal cells. As a review, the six basic things common to both plant and animal cells are: cell membrane, nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum, ribosomes, Golgi apparatus, and mitochondria. There is one other organelle that is present in both plant and animal cells, however, it is much larger, and takes a much more prominent place in the cells of plants. This is the vacuole. The vacuole is essentially a storage facility. It can store water for the plant cell, it can store food for the plant cell, and additionally it can store waste. Because it can store water, a plant that is in need of water will have used the stored water in the vacuoles and cause the cells to become less full, so they are less rigid and the plant is droopy. A plant whose cells have full vacuoles is a plant that is getting enough water.
There are a number of differences between plant and animal cells, as well. Plant cells have cell walls, in addition to cell membranes. The cell wall’s purpose is to make the cell more rigid and is made of cellulose. Plant cells also have chloroplasts. They are what make plants green. These are not found in animal cells at all. Chloroplasts are what convert the sun’s energy into sugar. This sugar in turn feeds the cells, as well as the whole plant. Eventually those sugars are what feed people and animals as well. So while animal cells do not contain chloroplasts, they are vital to the survival of animals.
This brief review of plant and animal cells is by no means all inclusive. Go out to the internet and find pictures and more detailed descriptions. And find more pictures. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case that is completely true. Seeing a line drawing of a plant cell and an animal cell next to each other makes the similarities and the differences easy to point out. Also, remember that in fifth grade science, may be the first time your student learns about cells, but it will certainly not be the last. Expect for your student to have to label more and more complex pictures of cells as they advance through the grades.