Homeostasis in Animals

A Carolina Essentials™ Activity

Total Time: 60-75 mins

Prep: 15 mins | Activity: 45-60 mins

Life Science


High School


This is an introductory activity to introduce students to the phenomenon of homeostasis. Students gather data on set point or resting heart rate, exercise, collect data again, and then relate the data to negative feedback mechanisms. Students visualize and explain homeostasis through graphing and graph interpretation. Minimal equipment is needed.

Essential Question

How do feedback mechanisms maintain homeostasis in animals?

Activity Objectives

  1. Determine set point, or normal resting heart rate.
  2. Using student data, identify and explain negative feedback mechanisms and the role they have in maintaining homeostasis.

Next Generation Science Standards* (NGSS)

HS-LS1-3. Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence that feedback mechanisms maintain homeostasis.

Science & Engineering Practices

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Disciplinary Core Ideas

LS1.A Structure and Function

Crosscutting Concepts

Stability and Change


Safety & Disposal

Make certain students are healthy enough to run in place for 2 minutes prior to beginning the activity. Use this activity only in accordance with established laboratory safety practices, including appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, chemical splash goggles, and lab coats or aprons. Ensure that students understand and adhere to these practices. Students should not eat, drink, or chew gum in the lab and should wash their hands after entering and before exiting the lab.


There is no chemical disposal.

Student Procedures

  1. Lab partners will take turns as test subject and observer to determine the set point for the test subject’s resting heart rate.
  2. For each person in the lab group, determine the set point for resting heart rate by taking each person’s pulse 3 times for 15 seconds.
  3. Average the three 15-second values.
  4. Run in place for 2 minutes.
  5. Determine pulse rate for 15 seconds immediately after running.
  6. Take the pulse rate again for 15 seconds, at intervals of 1 minute, for a total of 5 minutes.
  7. Record data for each person in the group.

Teacher Preparation and Tips

  1. Prior to beginning the activity, demonstrate how to find and take a pulse, both on the neck and on the wrist.
  2. Emphasize the importance of accurate timekeeping.
  3. If necessary, remind students that they will add the 3 resting pulse numbers and divide by 3 to get the average.
  1. Step 5 must happen quickly. Remind students to have the timekeeping device ready to record the 15 seconds.
  1. You may want to combine each group’s data and look at data from the whole class.

Data and Observations

Student answers will vary slightly but should be within normal range (60 to 100 beats/minute or 15 to 25 beats/15 seconds).

Resting Heart Rate

resting heart rate data table

Post Exercise Heart Rate

post exercise heart rate data table

Analysis & Discussion

  1. Compare the set point heart rate for each group member

    If students are healthy, the range of set point heart rates should not vary widely and will probably be within normal ranges. Students may notice slight differences between genders or athletes and nonathletes.

  2. On the same axes, graph every group member’s average set point heart rate and post- exercise heart rates. Color code or label each line. On the graph, identify the set point, where exercise is taking place, and where corrective mechanisms are activated. Remember to title the graph, label the axes, include units, and include a key.

  3. Using the concepts of homeostasis and negative feedback mechanisms, explain each segment of the graph.

    Segment 1: The slope of the line segment is positive indicating an increase in heart rate. Exercise with an increased need for oxygen to the muscles, is the stimulus to which the circulatory must respond to maintain homeostasis.Segment 2: The slope of the line segment is negative indicating the circulatory system is in a self-correcting, negative feedback mechanism. Heart rate is coming down, returning the body to normal through the process of homeostasis.Segment 3: The slope of segment 3 is negative and very small indicating that the body is returning to set point heart rate and homeostasis is maintained.

  4. If you collected data for a positive feedback mechanism, how would the graph change?

    Segment 1: The slope of the line segment would be negative indicating a decrease in rate or amount. Segment 2: The slope of the line segment would be positive indicating a self-correcting, positive feedback mechanism. Segment 3: The slope of segment 3 would be positive and very small indicating that the body is returning to set point rate or amount and homeostasis is maintained.

  5. Convert your heart rates to beats/min. Compare your heart rate to the normal range of 60-100 beats/min.

    Energy flow was from the environment to the system. I know this because the temperature went down.

*Next Generation Science Standards® is a registered trademark of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of, and do not endorse, these products.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More