Cellular respiration occurs on the folds of the mitochondria.

Cellular Respiration: Kinesthetic Activity

In this short activity, students who are blind or visually impaired become the players (products and reactants) in cellular respiration.

I was reminded of this activity while considering kinesthetic activities that I use with my students for an interview with Stephanie Ludi.  I have found that students remember much better when they are involved in active learning.  Much research has supported this.   In this simple activity, students take on the roles of the reactants and products in one chemical reaction vital to life – cellular respiration.





After initial instruction on cellular respiration, tell the students that they will play the parts of the major players in cellular respiration.

  1. Have the students stand in an open area of the classroom as space will be necessary.
  2. Assign each students a role:  carbon dioxide, oxygen, water, and food.
  3. Explain to the students that the rope represents the cell membrane.  Also, explain that like every model, it is imperfect as the cell membrane would be 3-D rather than 2-D. 
  4. Ask the students what the function of cellular respiration is.  They should remember that energy production from food is the function of cellular respiration.  Prompt them if necessary.
  5. Ask:  What is necessary to produce energy by cellular respiration? – Answer: oxygen and food. Discuss
  6. (You may want to ask where they get their energy if the students have forgotten the reactants. Answer – from food)
  7. Ask:  What are the waste products?  –  Answer:  Water and carbon dioxide
  8. Have the students that are “playing” the products (water and carbon dioxide) stand inside of the cell membrane as you begin the activity.
  9. Once they understand that food and oxygen are the necessary reactants, have the other 2 students “play” the food and oxygen and enter the cell through the cell membrane (rope). 
  10. After they have entered, ask:  What products are produced?  – Answer:  Water and carbon dioxide.  Have the 2 students who were in the cell exit as you explain the reaction. 
  11. As the reactants enter and the products exit, make a buzzing sound to represent the production of energy (or ask the students what sound should represent energy) as a result of the reaction of cellular respiration.  Describe this sound as the sound representing energy.  
  12. Have students write the formula in words or in the form of a chemical reaction depending on their levels.


NGSS Standards:

Grade 5 – Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems

Middle School: Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems

PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life

High School: Matter and Energy in Organisms and Ecosystems

LS2.B: Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems

By Laura Hospitál

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