Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Secure Your Oxygen Mask First

Energetics / Cell Respiration

K20 Center, Christen Rowland | Published: November 8th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject
  • Course Course Biology I
  • Time Frame Time Frame 250 minutes
  • Duration More 4-5 class periods


Students will learn how to disrupt cell respiration and what happens when cell respiration is disrupted. This is intended for a Pre-AP or AP Biology class, utilizing the respiration lab recommended by CollegeBoard. If selecting this lesson for other groups of students, read through the differentiations to decrease the difficulty of the lesson.

Essential Question(s)

How do cells obtain and use energy? 



Students read a case study about cyanide poisoning in Chicago.


Students perform a cell respiration lab, looking at respiration rates in seeds.


Students create research posters to share their lab results and participate in a Gallery Walk and discussion.


Students research other inhibitors of respiration, fermentation, and anaerobic restrictions.


Students present their research to the class.


  • Chicago Cyanide Murders case study handout

  • Cell Respiration Lab handouts

  • Plastic tubs

  • Water (3 different temperatures)

  • Respirometers

  • Cotton balls

  • KOH

  • Peas

  • Thermometers

  • Plastic beads

  • Tape

  • Food coloring

  • Poster paper

  • Access to the internet


To begin, pass out copies of the Chicago Cyanide Murders case study for students to read. Have students read in groups of two or three and answer the questions on the case study.


Pass out cell respiration lab handouts, which are adapted from the 2001 CollegeBoard AP Biology manual - the current CollegeBoard AP Biology lab manual can be found following the link (The lab itself is on page 188 for the teacher version and page 202 for student of the PDF). Give students time in their lab groups to read the instructions and answer the pre-lab questions. Students will then be assigned a temperature to investigate and will explore the cell respiration rates of peas, so each group will test only one temperature.

Differentiation: To decrease difficulty of the lesson, move this lab to the Extend section, and omit the other Extend activity.


In their lab groups, have students create a Research Poster related to their cell respiration experiments. On the poster, students should include their research question, hypothesis, data table, graph, and research conclusion. Ask the groups to present their posters to the class. After the presentations, hang up the posters and have a discussion about how the different temperatures affected the rates of photosynthesis and what happened with the different conditions of the peas.

Have students write Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) statements using the prompt: The relationship between temperature and respiration ______. Remind students that complete CER statements do not just have a claim, but also evidence and a reason to justify the claim.


Have students sign up in groups of 2-3 (different from their lab groups, preferably) to explore a specific inhibitor of cell respiration. A signup sheet with the list of inhibitors is available in the "Inhibitors of Cell Respiration" attachment.

Ask groups to research their inhibitor and create a 5-10 minute presentation about their inhibitor and how it works. Students should include:

  • The name of their inhibitor.

  • The type of drug.

  • Uses.

  • How it works (where it blocks cell respiration).

  • Symptoms of ingesting the inhibitor.

  • Any known treatments that can reverse the effects of the inhibitor and how quickly the treatment has to be administered.


Students will present their research from the Extend activity to the class. After the presentations, ask students to write a Two-Minute Paper where they reflect upon how cells use and obtain energy and the ways in which that can be inhibited.