Yellow background with scientific shapes.

Build clay blood cells

Crick scientist Laura studies malaria - a disease that's caused by a parasite that gets inside our blood cells. Learn about malaria and make some blood cell-inspired crafts with Laura!

What you'll need

What you'll need

  • 1 cup of corn flour

  • 2 cups of bicarbonate of soda

  • 1 cup of water

  • Paint/nail varnish/marker pens

  • String/key ring holder

  • Instructions

  • Mix the ingredients

    Mix the corn flour, bicarbonate of soda and water in a saucepan. Cook at medium heat (with an adult supervising!) for five to ten minutes. Make sure that you're careful with the hot pan and the mixture.

  • Cover and let it cool

    Transfer the mixture into a bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. Let it cool down until it's not too hot to handle.

  • Make your shapes!

    There are four different shapes that you'll be making - a red blood cell, a white blood cell, a platelet and a malaria parasite.

    • For the red blood cell, roll a piece of the dough into a ball, and then flatten it in the middle to create a disk with a dip on each side. Use Laura's video to see what it should look like!
    • For the white blood cell, roll a piece of the dough into a ball, and then pinch it to create small spikes all over the surface. Tweezers or scissors might help, but make sure to do this bit with an adult supervising.
    • For the platelets, make a smaller piece of dough and roll it into a ball again. Flatten it into a disk and add small spikes all around the outside.
    • For the malaria parasite, roll a piece of the dough into a ball. Pinch one of the ends and rotate the dough. 
    • For all the blood cell and malaria shapes, don't forget to add a hole if you want to turn it into a key ring or bracelet!
  • Leave your cells to dry for three days.

    You can store any leftover dough in an airtight container and use it again.

  • Adding some colour!

    You can use paint, or even nail varnish and marker pens.

  • Create your craft!

    You can use the cells to make a key ring, bracelet, badge, magnet, or anything else you can think of. Or you can just keep them as they are!

  • Science

    The science

    Blood is made up of four main parts:

    • Plasma | A liquid that transports things like carbon dioxide, chemicals and even heat around the body
    • Red blood cells | Cells that transport oxygen around the body and get it where we need it
    • White blood cells | Cells that eat pathogens (things that harm us like viruses and bacteria) and produce antibodies to fight the pathogens
    • Platelets | Very small cells that help blood clot and form scabs

    You're going to be making three of these, as well as one extra thing! Malaria is a disease that occurs around the world. It's caused by a parasite and often spread by mosquitoes that bite people and get the parasite into their blood. Scientists at the Crick study ways to treat malaria, as well as ways to stop people getting infected with it.

    Fancy getting even more creative?

    Bryony from our exhibitions team has made a colouring sheet based on a picture of blood cells taken by Crick scientists.You don't have to stick to just red and white - make the blood cells as colourful as possible!

    Download colouring sheet (pdf)

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