Got Gas? How Much?

By Jason Weinberger, May 19, 2009

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Architecture

Subject Area

  • Mathematics
  • Science

Lesson Time

100 minutes of classroom activities


Students will have a working understanding of the biochemical reaction of cellular respiration in Biology class.  Students will set up a demonstration of the biochemical process by allowing the organism (baker's yeast) to ferment in solution thus releasing carbon dioxide gas.  Students will design a device to capture and measure the gas released during the process. The process of cellular respiration is a key biochemical reaction that takes place in every organism's cells continuously.  Students are required to understand how the specific enzyme catalyzed reactions occur, in what location the reactions occur, and what the inputs and outputs are to each step in the process.  Students are required to compare and contrast the reactions of anaerobic and aerobic cellular respiration, and to determine outcomes of each type of reaction. By encouraging students to design a measuring device to collect the waste gas from the reaction, I will engage students in the final quantitative analysis of this demonstration.  For many years, students looked at the demonstration and could tell that a reaction occurred; this design challenge will attempt to quantify the amount or rate of the reaction. I wish to generate creative and analytical solutions to the once qualitative demonstration of cellular respiration.  In earlier classes, students were able to understand that a reaction was occurring; after designing this device, students will be able to quantify the reaction between the organism and its environment.  Students will demonstrate the concepts of statistical analysis to determine the effectiveness of their design.

National Standards

Science Standard 6. Level IV. Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment. 3.Knows that as matter and energy flow through different levels of organization in living systems and between living systems and the physical environment, chemical elements (e.g., carbon, nitrogen) are recombined in different ways Standard 8. Level IV. Understands the structure and properties of matter. 10. Understands that chemical reactions either release or consume energy (i.e., some changes of atomic or molecular configuration require an input of energy; others release energy) 11. Knows that chemical reactions can take place at vastly different rates (e.g., from the few femtoseconds required for an atom to move a fraction of a chemical bond distance to geologic times scales of billions of years) and reaction rates depend on a variety of factors that influence the frequency of collision of reactant molecules (e.g., shape and surface area of the reacting species, temperature, pressure, the presence or absence of a catalyst)

Common Core Standards

Anchors for Reading:

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Craft and Structure:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.5 Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.


  Students will:
  • know the biochemical reactions of aerobic and anaerobic cellular respiration
  • know the importance of biochemical reactions to the maintenance of an organism's metabolism
  • know the scientific importance of making accurate and precise measurements to determine a quantitative analysis of biological systems
  • understand that scientific advancement occurs through the design and execution of new experiments, which may weaken or reinforce current understanding
  • understand that organisms require interaction with their environment and certain biochemical reactions to maintain an internal homeostasis
  • design a measuring device to capture and accurately determine the volume of gas released from a biochemical reaction
  • assess the effciency of the device by statistical analysis



  • 2-250mL Erlenmeyer flask
  • yeast - 1 gram/flask
  • water
  • sugar
  • spoon
  • lamp
  • permanent marker
  • paraffin wax
  • balloons
  • 10mL syringes
  • 5mL syringes
  • plastic tubing
  • scissors
  • hot glue
  • ruler (metric)
  • rubber stopper
  • four beakers - 250mL
  • test tubes - 10mL
  • metric caliper
  • electrical tape


  • eudiometer: a device used to collect and measure the volume of a gas released by a chemical reaction


(Note: Chemists often need to know what is happening during a chemical reaction; specifically the scientists would like to graphically represent when the reaction occurred and at what rate did the reaction occur?  Some chemical reactions produce a colorimetric change {appear/disappear} as the reaction occurs, and scientists have a measuring device {called a spectrophotometer} to allow for accurate data to be collected about the color change in a reaction.  Other reactions may be monitored by observing a physical change (loss of mass; physical state change) or a chemical change {range of pH for instance}.  This biochemical reaction will attempt to measure the rate of the reaction {cellular respiration} by collecting and measuring the volume of gas released by the reaction.  I would encourage students to follow one of two pathways in attempting a solution to this design challenge.  If the reaction is run, and gas produced, in a closed container {airtight}, then the reaction rate can be interpreted by measuring the pressure in the container as the reaction occurs.  Yet another method of monitoring the rate of this reaction is to measure the volume of gas produced by displacing water from a eudiometer {gas measuring tube}.)     1. Teacher preparation: Set up each lab group with the materials listed above.  Identify the organism to be used in the laboratory experiment: baker's yeast.  Describe the steps for beginning the investigation of the biochemical reaction: a) Each student lab group pours half a package of dry yeast into a bowl.  Students are to examine the dry yeast with a magnifier or microscope.  They may touch and smell it, and should write down a description of its properties.  Is it biotic or abiotic?  Living or non-living? b) Add 15mL warm water (warm tap water is okay, but not too hot) to the yeast. c) Watch what happens to the yeast.  Take a look at it under the microscope. d) Stir with the spoon to dissolve the yeast in the water. e) Add one teaspoon of sugar to the yeast and warm water, and stir with the spoon. f) Pour the yeast mixture into one glass flask, and place the measuring device directly over the mouth of the flask.  This reaction is anaerobic; therefore this step should create an “airtight” seal. g) Let the bottles sit in a warm place or place them under a warm lamp for twenty-four hours. (Note: The teacher sets up the lab experiment to keep all other variables equal across lab groups (amount of ingredients added to flask; time of fermentation; temperature of flask; etc.) so that all students should collect the same volume of gas.   Such that an anticipated "given volume of gas" is expected within % error.  Students will be able to utilize this standard measurement in assessing the effectiveness of their design.) 2. Teacher will identify the design challenge issued in the above procedure: the "measuring device.” The design challenge is to create a measuring device that will collect and accurately measure the volume of gas collected from the reaction contained inside the sealed flask. 3. Teacher facilitates student groups through the design process: a) Identify design challenge - diagram and brainstorm possible solutions (23 minutes): Students will work collaboratively to develop as many creative and original ideas as possible utilizing the materials laid in front of them.  I would suggest that you prepare ahead of time and have the materials organized for each group such that students may see each item but not yet touch. b) Imagine – a reasonable procedure for collecting required data; anticipate outcomes and develop an hypothesis (28 minutes): Students will present (through museum walk or other method; perhaps privately to teacher if you'd prefer a more competitive atmosphere between groups) at the end of the first class period.  Components of presentation include: diagram, hypothesis; materials list, procedure for collecting measurements. c) Develop – prototype and test:  Reconfigure and develop final design that ensures an accurate measurement. (20 min): Students will revisit original ideas, begin trial and error prototyping. d) Execute: Students will perform the experiment utilizing the designed measuring device. e) Evaluate: Students will present design ideas, data collected from experiment, and analysis/assessment of the design.    


Teacher will evaluate each lab groups' experiment.  Did the measuring device measure the volume of gas released by the biochemical reaction? Teacher will have students analyze how accurately the measuring device measured the volume of gas released by the reaction.  Students will calculate the % error from their design by statistically comparing the observed and the expected values in the data. Students from each group will then present a self analysis of the experiment and teacher will determine, based on written lab reports and oral presentation, if the student has successfully learned the objectives of the lesson.    

Enrichment Extension Activities

The most effective extension to this activity is to spend more resources to develop the best idea and perfect the design for use across the entire classroom.  Students could then experiment with the range of accuracy in the measuring device that was originally the most effective. What happens when you set up the experiment with the amount of yeast/sugar/temp/ as the independent variable; does the measuring device continue to record accurate data? Also, teacher may want to invest in a technologically accurate measuring device; Vernier's LabPro CO2 gas collection sensor would be an ideal standard method.  This would be a useful technological addition to the science teacher's equipment as there are a number of useful sensors and probes available for other lab experiments.    
  1. The extension of using the Vernier’s LabPro CO-2 gas collection sensor would really help students get a clearer picture of measurement tools. When I have use the Vernier devices in my own classroom, I have had the most interest from students, particularly the gifted and talented students. This also helped students who had no interest in the project, but loved technology, get involved.

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