Candy Cells: Cell Evolution Through Symbiosis

All living creatures have cells. Some cells are more complex than others. In this activity, candies and a baggies are used to model the basic structures of the simplest cells that first evolved, the procaryotes. Then, using the same materials in different combinations, we create models of eucaryotic cells. Finally, the eucaryotic and procaryotic “cells” are merged to demonstrate “endosymbiosis” and show how mitochondria evolved.



  • Students learn the basic building blocks of all cells
  • They learn that all cells have a membrane, DNA, messenger RNA, ribosomes and proteins
  • They learn the difference between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells
  • They learn that mitochondria are the evolutionary result of endosymbiosis


  • Pint size baggies
  • Twizzlers “Twisted Berry”Blue and Purple for DNARed for RNA
  • Hot Cinnamon candies – for ribosomes
  • M&M Minis – for proteins

Procedure for Procaryote


  • Coil up 2 strands of Twisted Berry ropes to form DNA molecule.
  • Add to baggie, which represents the cell membrane
  • Add cut up bits of red Twisted Berry to represent messenger RNA
  • Add Cinnamon candies to represent ribosomes, the protein-building factories of the cell.
  • Add M&M minis to represent proteins.

Procedure for Eucaryote

  • Use larger baggie
  • Repeat as above except put DNA in corner and twist off from rest of cell. This demonstrates the membrane infolding that probably happened in the evolution of Eukaryotes.

Procedure for Endosymbiosis of Mitochondria

  • Place “procaryotic cell” into baggie representing the eukaryote. This represent the endosymbiosis of mitochondria, the powerhouses of eucaryotic cells.

For more information on building cells, check out the following web site:Cell Baggie Model – has a cell-building activity that uses a plastic egg nucelus, yarn DNA, kidney bean mitochondria, etc.