Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

Modelling a one-month human embryo

Embryo model

This is a fun activity that you can do just as well in your own kitchen as in a classroom or a university lab. Its main purpose is to allow you to use your hands along with your eyes to acquire a good three-dimensional understanding of the structure of the early human embryo. As a spin-off you will get an attractive, permanent, coloured model that you can put on show to intrigue your friends!

The model was developed by Colin Quilter in the Department of Anatomy with Radiology at the University of Auckland. Model-building forms part of the university's first-year course on human development. Students are provided with materials and instructions, and about 3 hours of time. The models which result are often of a high standard. Students comment that they enjoy the model-building exercise, and that it helps them form long-lasting memories about the structure of embryos.

The models are constructed using a readily-available modelling compound which is soft and pliable at room temperature but can be hardened in a domestic oven. The parts of the model are colour-coded to indicate their germ layer of origin, or for blood vessels, the quality of the blood they carry. The model is twenty-times life size.

This site contains all the information you need to build one model, or to organize model-building for a large class of students. The text and images provided here are the copyright of Colin Quilter 2003. They may be copied or printed freely for non-profit educational use.

The only request made by the author is that you send him an email to let him know whether or not the project was successful, and your suggestions for changes or improvements.

Dr Colin Quilter: c.quilter@auckland.ac.nz

This project benefited greatly from the help of Dr Jeremy Cook, University College London. Jeremy produces a CD-ROM "The Embryonic Disk" which is an excellent (and low-priced!) resource to support the teaching of embryology.