More Picture
Specialized Cells Lesson Plans - Epithelial Cell

Cells are the building blocks of all living things. The human body contains hundred of different types of cells that each serve a different purpose. Each cell has adaptations that allow it to work effectively within living things. Once students have mastered basic cells, they should move on to specialized cells and their specific functions. The following activities are aimed to help students differentiate between specialized cells through visual aids and vocabulary!

Student Activities for Specialized Cells

Essential Questions for Specialized Cells

  1. What is a cell?
  2. How are cells adapted?
  3. How do those adaptations make the cell more efficient?

Types of Specialized Cells

Not all cells in our body are alike. They often have lots in common and similar organelles, but there are hundreds of specialized cells, all of which have adaptations that allow it to effectively function.

Fat Cell

Fat cells are also known as lipocytes or adipocytes and are adapted to store energy in the human body as fat. These cells have a large fat reservoir that is surrounded by a thin layer of cytoplasm. Fat cells have the ability to grow in size, allowing them to store more fat if necessary. The average human adult has tens of billions of fat cells. As well as storing energy, fat cells also insulate the body to help keep humans warm.

Ciliated Epithelial Cell

Ciliated epithelial cells are found in areas where mucus is produced. These cells are column-shaped with tiny hair-shaped appendages called cilia. The cilia move back and forth, sweeping mucus and dirt particles out of the body. These cells are often found near goblet cells that produce mucus. One of the areas these cells are found is along the trachea, or windpipe. They can also be found in the bronchi, uterine tubes, and the digestive tract.

Nerve Cell

Nerve cells are often known as neurons. Their function is to carry electrical signals around the body. The human brain has roughly 100 billion neurons, which are elongated and drawn out like a wire. They have many branches at each end, allowing them to connect to a range of other cells. The nerve impulse is carried in the axon, which is covered in a layer of fat, or a myelin sheath, that insulates it. This insulation acts like the plastic coating on a wire and stops the electrical signals affecting other parts of the body. The gap between between neurons called a synapse. When the electric signal reaches a synapse, chemicals known as neurotransmitters diffuse across the gap. This can then carry the signal down to the next nerve cell.

Root Hair Cell

Root hair cells are found in the roots of plants and absorb water for the plant more efficiently. Water is a reactant used in photosynthesis, the chemical reaction plants use to make their own food. Water is used as a solvent to dissolve other substances that are moved around the plant and is also used to increase hydrostatic pressure inside other cells in the plant to help keep the plant rigid. Root hair cells have thin cell walls and a long, hair-like projection to increase surface area, which allow for efficient absorption of water and minerals.

Red Blood Cell

Red cells are used to transport oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. They are well-adapted for this function because they contain hemoglobin. Hemoglobin reacts with oxygen and carbon dioxide, allowing them to be transported around the body. Red cells don't have nuclei in order to increase the amount of hemoglobin they can carry. The cells have a biconcave shape that increases surface area. Their small size and ability to bend allows them to easily move all over the body.

Smooth Muscle Cell

Smooth muscle cells are found all over the body and in internal organs. They are different than striated muscle cells, which are found in skeletal muscles. Striated muscle cells are involved with voluntary movement, and smooth muscle cells are involved with involuntary movement. Just like striated cells, smooth muscle cells have the ability to contract. They are spindle-shaped and have a centralized, elongated nucleus. Their shape allows them to connect well with neighboring cells.

Egg Cell

The egg cells are also known as an ovum cell. They are produced in the ovaries and carry the mother’s genetic information. Egg cells contain half the number of chromosomes compared to other cells in the body. They are one of the largest in the human body and can be seen with the unaided eye. In addition to having a haploid nucleus, the cell also has a special membrane that only allows one sperm cell to fertilize it. The cytoplasm of the cell is very large and contains a number of organelles and nutrients to help the cell divide effectively when it is fertilized.

Sperm Cell

Sperm cells are produced in the testes. The function of these cells is to fertilize eggs cells during reproduction. Sperm cells contain half the number of chromosomes as other cells in the body. Cells that contain half the genetic information are known as gametes. The sperm cell has a flagellum (a whip-like tail) that propels it. The midpiece of the sperm cell contains a high density of mitochondria. Mitochondria are sites where respiration occurs, releasing energy from glucose that allows the sperm cell to move. At the front of the sperm cell, there are enzymes known as acrosomes. These enzymes can break down the cell membrane of the cell and allow fertilization to occur. The sperm cell is small and streamlined, allowing it to move easily.

To learn more about plant and animal cells, including the function of the different parts, look at the plant and animal cells lesson plans.

Image Attributions
  • blood in tubes • Iqbal Osman1 • License Attribution (
  • circulatory system • adrigu • License Attribution (
  • Feeling Fat. • Caitlinator • License Attribution (
Find more lesson plans and activities like these in our Science Category!
View All Teacher Resources
*(This Will Start a 2-Week Free Trial - No Credit Card Needed)
© 2022 - Clever Prototypes, LLC - All rights reserved.
StoryboardThat is a trademark of Clever Prototypes, LLC, and Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office