Animal Cells Lesson Plan: The Cell Command Game

Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12

In this animal cells lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 6 through 12, students use BrainPOP resources to identify the parts of an animal cell. Students will describe what happens to food and energy when it enters the cell and use an interactive game to explore cell structures virtually.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Complete a scientific investigation to explore the layers of a cell.
  2. Identify and describe the parts of an animal cell.
  3. Describe what happens to food and energy when it enters the cell.


  • One onion
  • Several magnifying glasses
  • Internet access for BrainPOP and Filament Games
  • Red food coloring
  • Class set of photocopies of the Graphic Organizer
  • Class set of photocopies of the Vocabulary page with the Activity page on the back
  • Several microscopes and animal cell slides


cell membrane; regulate; nucleus; cytoplasm; organelle; mitochondria; lysosome; vacuole; protein; ribosome


Familiarize yourself with the Cell Command interactive game from Filament Games, as well as the BrainPOP Cell Structures topic page.

In this game, students take the helm of a command center of a "cell ship," working with crew members at their cellular stations. As students embark on different missions, they'll assist crew members with their duties based on whatever cellular crises emerge. Along the way, crew members will increase their stats and earn station perks. Students will initially start the game as a lowly crew member, working on a single station and improving their own station skills. Completing missions will earn cell credits, allowing players to upgrade their cell ship, their own commander skills or the skills of their crew. By completing all missions the player will unlock Exploration mode and win the game, having learned key concepts in cell biology. More background information on the game can be found on the Filament Games website.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Before beginning the game, use BrainPOP to activate prior knowledge and reinforce the content covered in the game. Explain that during the BrainPOP movie, students should watch and listen for both key terms and the parts of an animal cell, and hand out the Activity page.
  2. Play the Movie pausing at key points to allow students to take notes, fill out their activity page and cell drawing labels, and complete the vocabulary definitions using their own words. Provide a few minutes after the movie for students to finish this collaboratively and talk about their answers with one another.
  3. Review the answers as a class. If you notice that many students have misconceptions on the topic even after viewing the movie, take the Review Quiz together as a discussion activity.
  4. Tell students they will have further opportunities to learn and practice their knowledge about cells using the Cell Command game. Click through Cell Command's instructions and read through with the class. You may want to play a practice round before sending students off to play in partnerships or independently. *You might want to use headphones, or show students how to turn off the background sound! Let students know they'll have multiple class periods to explore this game.
  5. If students have individual logins through My BrainPOP, they’ll be able to take snapshots during game play to capture significant moments and reflect on their work. Clicking on the snapshot tool generates a thumbnail image which is stored on the bottom left of the screen. At any point during game play, students can click on their snapshot(s) and type a caption or response to a prompt, and save or submit it to your teacher’s account. Check out Cell Command Additional Features for My BrainPOP for more information and specific snapshot prompts you can give students during [game name] game play.
  6. After students have a chance to play, allow for some time to debrief. Ask students what they thought the object of the game was, and what they learned from playing. Use the Graphic Organizer as an assessment to find out more about what students have learned throughout this topic of study.
  7. The following class period, draw on the students' experience from playing Cell Command. Have students explain what a cell is, and ask, "Is it true that cells can only be viewed using a microscope?" Use the Experiment to test students' predictions and show what cells look like.
  8. Divide students into small groups or partnerships and have students refer to their Vocabulary page from the previous lesson. If students haven't completed these, invite students to work collaboratively and jot down any missing information.Have students share out definitions.
  9. While they work, invite students to come up to the experiment one group at a time to view the onion cells under the magnifying glasses. Ask questions to encourage students to think about what they're observing: What components of the cells are not visible? What equipment might be needed to see more details?
  10. Project an animal cell slide on the white board. Tell students you have also put microscopes around the room with various animal slides. Allow students to rotate around the room and draw a couple of examples of the cells they saw.
  11. Put a labeled animal cell diagram on the board next to the real cell. Challenge students to identify the parts of the real animal cell using the labeled cell to help them. You may wish to have students try to label their drawings at their seats.
  12. If time allows, have students continue playing Cell Command. Before playing, make sure to debrief on their previous experiences and ask how students think the game experience might be different this time.
  13. Before the end of the period, invite students to do a quick write on whether they would recommend this game to other students and explain why or why not. Let them know this will inform whether you use the game with future classes.

Extension Activity:

Have students construct their own edible cells using different types of candy to represent each part of the cell. Use the downloadable resource (above from Holt Science and Technology to guide students through the activity.

Use the movies and resources in the Cellular Life and Genetics unit to help students further their understanding about cells. You may also want to utilize the other Health Games featured in GameUp.

Downloadable Resources:

Holt Science and Technology Edible Cell Activity.pdf

BrainPOP Movies:

Cell Specialization
Passive Transport
Cell Structures (Activity Page Answer Key)
Active Transport (Activity Page Answer Key)