Anaerobic bacteria plated.

Cellular Respiration

by carolinastaff

Photosynthesis is the process by which plants make and store sugar in the presence of sunlight, and that sugar is then used by plants during respiration to produce the energy plants need to grow. Respiration can be completed in the presence of oxygen in aerobic respiration, or without oxygen in anaerobic respiration. Microbes like yeast can also break down sugar in the familiar process of fermentation.

This guide breaks down the important information students need to know, provides links to products and free digital resources, and includes suggestions for hands-on labs that reinforce student learning. We gathered a variety of products and resources to better help you teach this concept. They include:

  • Models and manipulatives to simplify teaching cell structure and function
  • Respiration activities, experiments, and kits
  • Free resources for you and your students

The major areas covered in this topic:

Cellular Respiration

The life processes of all organisms require energy. Glucose stores energy in its atomic structure. Through a complex, stepwise process called cellular respiration, cells break down glucose to capture its potential energy and make molecules of ATP.

 investigate the metabolic process of cellular respiration in germinating pea seed
747600 Carolina Investigations® for Use with AP® Biology: Cell Respiration

Students investigate the metabolic process of cellular respiration in germinating pea seed. In the Guided Investigation, students use respirometers to measure the rate of respiration based on the rate of relative oxygen consumption. In the Inquiry Activity, students design an investigation to further explore cellular respiration. 

Advanced—For experienced high school and college classes; requires some technical skill and background knowledge.

746500 Modeling Cellular Respiration Kit

Working in groups, students use molecular models to explore the energy-yielding oxidation of glucose. Each group is assigned a step of the Krebs cycle to model. Students determine what is released and/or consumed during their reaction and what energy-related change occurs. They learn concepts central to cellular respiration and how the concepts apply to the reaction they model. This enables the entire class to understand the overall process by which cells harvest chemical energy from glucose.

Beginning—Easy to perform; requires little or no prior knowledge.

Materials needed to prepare a Winogradsky column
703490 Carolina® Winogradsky Column Set

A simple means of encouraging and demonstrating the growth of soil microbes such as protozoa, fungi, bacteria, and algae. Interrelationships of these microbes can be observed over a 6-week period. Soil sample must be field collected. 

Intermediate—Easy to perform; requires some background knowledge.

Materials needed to investigate cellular respiration and anaerobic processes.
202208 Investigating Cellular Respiration and Anaerobic Processes in Yeast Beads Kit

Introduce students to the cycling of carbon from glucose to carbon dioxide in aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Students develop a model based on initial observations in an open system. After measuring the volume of carbon dioxide evolution over time in a closed system, and observing an indicator for the presence of oxygen, they graph the rate of carbon dioxide evolution and revise their models.

Beginning—Easy to perform; requires little or no prior knowledge.


Cells can produce ATP in the absence of oxygen, but only through glycolysis. In order to break down another molecule of glucose in the absence of oxygen, the cell must cycle NADH back to NAD+ (the NADH produced during glycolysis is normally converted back into NAD+ by the electron transport chain). This need is met through the process of fermentation.

Syringes are used to measure fermentation
202202 Carolina BioKits® Basic Fermentation

Using 3 different sugar solutions, students learn about fermentation and study yeast’s carbon dioxide production rate. In Activity 1, students conduct an experiment to determine how fermentation rate varies between glucose and sucrose and with concentration. During Activity 2, the class develops and carries out an experiment to answer a question of their choosing about fermentation.

Beginning—Easy to perform; requires little or no prior knowledge.

202215 Cellular Respiration and Fermentation Kit

This kit highlights physiological differences between aerobic cellular respiration and fermentation. Students learn about the production of ATP in glycolysis, Krebs cycle, and electron transport system, and then compare these to the ATP production of both lactic acid fermentation and alcohol fermentation. They answer questions, perform calculations, and interpret results to evaluate their hypothesis and demonstrate their learning.

Advanced—For experienced high school and college classes; requires some technical skill and background knowledge.

Photosynthesis and Respiration

The processes of photosynthesis and respiration are linked. The following kits cover both topics.

187114 Matter Cycling and Energy Transfer in Lake Ecosystems Kit

Students begin with the phenomenon of a fish kill that occurred in Lake Erie in late summer. Students strive to make sense of this phenomenon by gathering evidence through investigations, readings, and digital resources. As students move through the lesson, they conduct investigations where they use system models to collect evidence about the roles of producers and consumers in an ecosystem; they learn how abiotic factors, such as nutrient levels and temperature, can cause changes in the ecosystem; and they explore the relationships between ecosystem components.

Beginning—Easy to perform; requires little or no prior knowledge.

251004 Inquiries in Science®: Energizing Cells Kit

Using aquatic plants, students explore the processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration by testing for the presence of carbon dioxide in water. They then apply their knowledge and design an experiment testing factors that might limit or improve the rate of cellular respiration in yeast. 

Intermediate—Easy to perform; requires some background knowledge.

Materials needed to perform experiment
747760 Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration with Algae Beads

Explore the processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration and their interrelationship using algae beads. In the Guided Activity, groups of students collaborate to perform an investigation in which they manipulate the transmittance of specific wavelengths of light available to encapsulated algae cells, or “algae beads.” Changes observed within a solution containing algae beads and a colorimetric indicator allow students to indirectly determine the net result of the biochemical processes of algal photosynthesis and cellular respiration within a closed system. In the Inquiry Activity, students formulate and explore an experimental question pertaining to the relative rate of photosynthesis and respiration in algae beads.

Advanced—For experienced high school and college classes; requires some technical skill and background knowledge.

Advanced Topics

Go a little deeper in your lesson on cellular respiration.

187216 Carolina EcoKits®: Ethanol Biofuel

Students apply scientific methodology to investigate enzyme digestion of cellulose and yeast alcohol fermentation in the presence of different concentrations of glucose. They then generate a standard curve to determine the concentration of glucose in solution. After understanding the reactions taking place, students discuss advantages and disadvantages of various sources of ethanol. 

Intermediate—Easy to perform; requires some background knowledge.

Additional Cell Respiration Products

Carolina has additional products to supplement your cellular respiration lessons.

732350 Fermentation Tube
821439 Tomato Juice/Yeast Extract Milk Medium
898900 Brewer’s Yeast
682000 Small Animal Basal Metabolism Studies Kit
682230 Carolina® Volumeter/Respirometer
747910 Cellular Respiration Microrespirometer
369649 NeuLog® CO2 Sensor
154635 NASA AMES: Grow Your Own Microbial Mats

Additional Cellular Respiration Teaching Support

We have free resources to help you teach this concept, including:

Free Cellular Respiration Resources

Use these free resources to supplement your instruction about fermentation and cellular respiration.

Carolina Care Guides

Explore our complete care guides for detailed information about the organisms along with related resources and FAQs.

Cellular Respiration Videos

Looking for some support for your cellular respiration labs? These videos can help.

For More Guidance

These are our top picks. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, we’ll be happy to help you find the right activities and kits to simplify your planning and implementation. If you have questions, please contact us at

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