Model Viruses

What do I need?
  • Play-dough
  • Q-Tips
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Ziplock Bag
  • Scissors


What do I do?

We'll use the image below of a Corona virus as a template to create our model.

Model of a virus diagram with labels


Spikes - help stick to surfaces.

Lipid Bilayer - act as the outer 'walls' of the virus.

Capsid - provides protection to the genetic material.

Genetic Material - the 'blueprint' of the virus.


  1. Use play-dough to make a hollowed ball about the size of a tennis ball. The play-dough will act as the body 'or lipid bilayer' of the virus.
  2. Cut the q-tips in half. Stick the q-tips on the outer surface of the play-dough ball. The q-tips will act as the Spikes of the virus.
  3. Place a pipe cleaner in a ziplock bag. Place the bag in the center of the play-dough ball. The pipe cleaner act as the genetic information or blueprints while the bag act as the capsid.


What's going on?

Viruses cause many diseases such as the common cold or COVID-19 - these are tiny, almost imperceptible beings that infect living beings to make more copies of themselves.


There are predominantly two kinds of shapes found amongst viruses: rods, or filaments, and spheres. The rod shape is because of the linear array of the nucleic acid and the protein subunits making up the capsid. The sphere shape is a 20-sided polygon.

Virus shape diagram
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