The purpose of this lab is to learn how to prepare a wet mound, to learn proper staining techniques and to examine human cheek cells and onion skin cells.


It is predicted that all cells, no matter if it be plant or animal, will be amalgamated in large groups. Also that most of the major organelles will be visible through the microscope at 400X total magnification. Finally, that the individual cells will be approximately 0.05mm in length/diameter.


  • Microscope (with 40X, 100X and 400X magnification)
  • Microscope Slides
  • Coverslips
  • Medicine dropper
  • Iodine Stain
  • Cheek cells
  • Toothpick
  • Methylene blue stain
  • Paper towels
  • Onion Skin
  • Water


For the Onion Skin Cell

  • Peel off a small section of onion skin
  • Place the onion skin in the center of the slide
  • Place the two drops of water on the onion skin. This is called a “wet mount”
  • Starting at one edge, gently lower a coverslip over the onion skin
  • Gently tap the slide with a pencil  to remove any air bubbles
  • Place a drop of iodine at one edge of the coverslip. Touch the opposite edge of the coverslip with a paper towel to draw the stain under the slip
  • Place the slide on the stage under low power. Use the coarse adjustment knob to focus
  • Rotate the nose piece to medium power. Use the fine adjustment knob to focus. Observe what you see
  • Repeat step 8, but this time switch to high power and draw what you see (use a pencil)
  • After you draw your diagrams, rotate the nose piece back to low power. Remove the slide and dispose of the piece of onion, and wash the slide and coverslip

For the Cheek Cell

  • Take a clean toothpick and gently scrape the inside of your cheek
  • Prepare a wet mount like in steps 2-6. Instead, use the methylene blue solution as the dye


When observing the onion skin cell, we noticed that the cells took on a brick-like structure and within the cells, small dots (the nuclei) can be seen. When we first looked into the microscope, the microscope’s total magnification was 40X so there were about a hundred rows of rectangular

cells (see diagram provided), but as we changed magnifications, the number of cells in the field of view decreased.

When we viewed the onion skin cells at 400X total magnification, we noticed the nuclei of the cells looked clearer and larger and we were able to study the cell with more understanding than when we used the first magnification.

The organelles that we were able to see in this type of cell were the nucleus, the cytoplasm, and the cell wall. Unlike the onion skin cells, the cheek cells were more spread out from each other and they

all had a round shape. When we viewed the cheek cells at 40X total magnification, we noticed that the cells were secluded and spread out (see diagram provided). At 400X total magnification, we were only able to view one cell at a time, due to the fact that the cells were separated from each other.  

The organelles that were visible in this type of cell were the nucleus, the cytoplasm and the cell membrane. Aside from the actual cells, we were able to see air bubbles within both the onion skin cell slide and the cheek cell slide.


Furthermore, the stated hypothesis is somewhat correct and incorrect. It was stated that all cells will be together in a large group, but the statement was incorrect. Only the plant cells were together in a large group. The animal cells, however, were secluded, thus proving the statement wrong.

Another statement that was incorrect was the estimation of the length/diameter. It was predicted that both the cells were about 0.05mm in length/diameter. Though it looked like the animal cell was slightly smaller, according to the calculations (diameter of FOV/# of times the object can fit across the FOV), the approximate length/diameter of the cells (both plant and animal) were 0.13mm.

A correct statement in the predicted hypothesis was that most of the important organelles are visible through the microscope. The important organelles that can be seen are the cell wall (for the plant cells), the cell membrane, the nucleus, and the cytoplasm. Those organelles could be seen due to the fact that they are the largest organelles in the cell and also due to the dye which brought them out.

The final statement in the hypothesis was that the overall image would not be clear enough for further detail. This statement was correct because, other than the nucleus, the cytoplasm, and the cell membrane/cell wall (for plants only), the observers could not see any other organelle; the microscope simply didn’t have enough magnification to see them.

Overall, the onion skin cells (plant cells) are rectangular and are always with other plant cells and cheek cells (animal cells) are circular and are secluded from each other. The smaller organelles cannot be seen with conventional microscopes.


Knowing that certain cells are different from other cells is important in our world for many reasons. The cell is the most basic unit of life and knowing about it will help us answer many different questions. If someone knows about the cell and how it works they could find a way to counteract viruses and illnesses, thus creating medicine and a way to cure the virus or illness.

Without knowledge of the cell, we wouldn’t know about how we get our energy, how we use our five senses, or even how we exist. We should know about the cell because it helps us understand that every cell has an individual job to fulfill and those cells let us do what we can do now.


The cheek cell, an example of an animal cell, generally has a circular, oval shape. Due to the fact that the cheek cell was not in groups or clumps, the arrangement of this type of cell is unknown. From previous labs, the cells were pushed together completely; each cell fitted beside another cell perfectly, and so on.

The animal cell structure is the most prominent in human cheek cells. The onion skin cell, an example of a plant cell, generally has a rigid, rectangular shape. The onion skin cells were positioned beside each other (length touching length, width touching width) and formed a checkered pattern.

Also, like the cheek cell, the onion skin cells were pushed together so that no spaces were in between. Two differences between a cheek cell and an onion skin cell are that the onion skin cells has the chloroplast and cell wall organelles while the cheek cell doesn’t and the general shape of the onion skin cell is a rectangle and the general shape of the cheek cell is an oval.


    • Well methylene blue can stain most things, like clothes. It won’t get off your clothing whatever you do. It also takes very long time to get off of your skin, so maybe you could use this to find your answer?

  1. I think for photosynthesis to occur there must be sunlight,water, and carbon(1V)oxide.Because onion bulb is inside the soil hence no access to sunlight thus the reason why the onion bulb cells lacking chlorophyll.The function of the onion bulb is to store food and to provide emergency energy. Thanks a lot for the good observation analysis it has helped with my studies in the botany field.

  2. Thanks so much! I needed this for the after-results of my year 7 prac. I do have a question though, what organelles can be seen and how does each magnification compare. Thank you!

  3. One of the questions in my papers are suggestions on ways to improve the experiment. I already have “using different stains” as an answer and I need to. Help?

  4. I really don’t know if anybody is still commenting here but I’m doing an assignment in college and I need help on the clear objectives of this experiment, like why did we do this experiment, I know why I did it I just don’t know how to type it out

  5. thank you so much
    this helped me a lot
    except I have a question
    what kind of organelles might you see at 40x

  6. Am so happy because this experiment helped me conduct or carry out my assignment sucessfull.thank you.ps am from nigeria

  7. @ P

    Onion cells do not have chloroplast. They do not need photosynthesis to make food since they grow underground, they use water only.That is also why they are white. Sorry if I am sounding rude. Hope it helps.

    • Sorry to say but not all onions are whithe others take different colours like purple but if onions use water only try growing an onion in a dark room and give me you results please

  8. Comprehensive and well-written. Please edit the sentence in the discussion: “The onion skin cell, an example of an animal cell, …” as the onion skin cell is obviously an example of a PLANT not animal cell. Otherwise, well done.

  9. Thank you so much! This was very informative. I am working on a lab with cheek cells and plant leaf cells and these images made me realize what I was doing was right and I didn’t need to doubt my work! Thank you!

  10. First of all I would like to say that I am a sophomore in high school, so if anything I may say seems uneducated, I apologize for it in advance.
    I found this article very interesting, and also very similar results to those that I found when I was conducting independent research. Of course, I had a much lower powered microscope, and with dye and the highest power lens I could not see anything other than pin point sized nuclei. This was very well written and performed. Thanks for sharing your findings!

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