Investigation – Cellular Respiration Virtual Lab

respiration lab

Students in AP Biology investigate cellular respiration by placing peas or other living organisms in respirometers. After submerging the devices, students then measure the rate or respiration by collecting data on water movement in the pipets.

I have set this lab up for many years, and it can be expensive and time consuming. My class periods are only 50 minutes, so I would go over the AP Biology Respiration Lab and set it up the first day, then collect data on the second day. This is actually not ideal because changes can occur in the respirometer overnight.

This virtual version takes less time and money. Students can change variables in the simulator, like the number of seeds and the temperature of the chamber. They read the respirometer after two minutes and record how much the water in the tube has increased. The faster the rate of respiration, the more displacement of the water in the tube. This occurs due to the oxygen being consumed during the process.

The worksheet is set up as a CER (claim, evidence, reasoning) and provides minimal instructions on how to solve the experimental questions. I wouldn’t technically call it an “inquiry lab,” but it does give students the opportunity to explore variables.

Students can complete the worksheet either as a handout or online. You can even have students use Google sheets to graph the data, though it’s not necessary. They can fairly easily note trends in data without a graph. I usually place respiration directly after the unit on cells where students learn about organelles and their jobs. You could also pair this activity with a unit on photosynthesis because they are examining how seeds use oxygen.

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