The Cell Explorer showing an animal cell with the organelles in different colours with a measuring device to show the scale

The Cell Explorer

Free online interactive 3D model allowing students to investigate the structure of eukaryotic cells, their organelles and cellular processes.

What is the Cell Explorer?

The Cell Explorer is a tool to help students to explore the sub-cellular structures and processes in eukaryotic cells. It can be used with A-level & Yr11 GCSE (or equivalent) groups as a classroom-based or homework activity.

Students are able to manipulate the colours and labels on the 3D model, while also having the option to move the cell and zoom in or out.

There is also the option to watch animations of mitosis and meiosis, as well as create presentations that can be downloaded and used as part of their coursework.

A-level Learning Outcomes

  • I can describe the key features of a eukaryotic cell

  • I can explain the functions of key organelles

  • I can analyse different stages of cell division

  • I can calculate the size of cells and organelles using scale and magnification

  • I can interpret scientific experimental data to apply understanding of cell specialisation

  • I can explain the applications of GCSE and A level Biology to current scientific research

Teachers and scientists carrying out an activity on a laptop
"Exploded View" of the cell explorer, showing all of the organelles in different colours and removed from the main body of the cell

Why was the Cell Explorer developed?

This tool is designed to help students understand just how tiny but complex cells are and how important understanding cells is to biology as a whole.

Many misconceptions surrounding cells and cell structure are focused on issues of scale and content. This interactive 3D model is designed to address these issues by allowing students to zoom in and out of the cell, understand what can and can’t be seen at different levels of magnification and how the organelles create the cell’s structure.

Additional Resources

To help support the use of the Cell Explorer in classrooms, there are a number of teacher notes and resources that are downloadable from the SCoPE website, including:

  • A-level teacher notes
  • GCSE teacher notes
  • Student worksheet on organelles
  • Student worksheet on cell division
  • Research summaries for students
Two people engaging in conversation in front of a large piece of brightly coloured scientific artwork
SCoPE school toolkit

The SCoPE Project

The Cell Explorer was developed as part of the SCoPE (Scientists Collaborative Project with Educators) programme, led by the Gurdon Institute in collaboration with the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education.

Teachers and Gurdon Institute scientists co-created four innovative teaching ‘toolkits’ to use in biology classrooms across the UK. These toolkits are part of our public engagement programme and their development was funded by Wellcome, therefore they are FREE for teachers to use.