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A Fun Lab for Teaching Cellular Respiration

I love teaching cellular respiration! One of the main contributors to the love of this topic is the BARF BAG lab. I find it oddly satisfying to watch the students’ expressions when I announce, “Today in the lab, we will be making barf in a bag.” This lab is easy to set up and is super effective in helping the students to understand cellular respiration via fermentation. Today, on the blog, I’m sharing a fun lab for teaching cellular respiration – the BARF BAG lab.

a fun lab for teaching cellular respiration

Want to download the printable that I use for this lab? Scroll to the bottom of the post to grab your FREE copy of this lab.

When To Use This Lab:

I generally teach cellular respiration in two parts. First, I teach the basics of cellular respiration (glycolysis, Krebs cycle, and electron transport chain). Once students have a firm understanding of the basics, I teach a separate lesson that covers cellular respiration via fermentation. After teaching fermentation (alcoholic and lactic acid fermentation), I have my students complete the barf bag lab. In this lab experiment, students will model alcoholic fermentation in an attempt to explain the effect that sugar has on the production of carbon dioxide. Students will add yeast to three different cereals (with varying sugar content) and measure the amount of carbon dioxide that is produced during alcoholic fermentation.

a fun lab for teaching cellular respiration

Lab Objective

In this lab, students will identify the reactants and products of alcoholic fermentation and will be able to explain the relationship between sugar amount and the production of carbon dioxide gas in a reaction. To do this, students will be mixing various cereals with water and yeast to generate an alcoholic fermentation reaction.

a fun lab for teaching cellular respiration

Scroll to the bottom of this post to download your FREE copy of this lab activity.

Materials Needed:

  • Frosted Flakes Cereal
  • Captain Crunch Cereal
  • Cheerios Cereal (plain)
  • Yeast
  • Warm Water
  • Heat Lamp
  • Pint Sized Ziploc Bags
alcoholic fermentation lab

Lab in Action

The lab is pretty simple. Students will fill 3 pint-sized Ziploc bags with 1/2 C of cereal. I use Frosted Flakes (22 grams sugar per serving), Captain Crunch (24 grams of sugar per serving), and Cheerios (2 grams of sugar per serving). It doesn’t matter what kind of cereal you use, but it is important that the cereals differ in their sugar content.

alcoholic fermentation lab

Students will need to add 1 cup of warm water to each bag of cereal. Then, students will add 2 tsp. of yeast to the mixture before expelling the air from the bag and sealing the contents. Students should gently mix each bag and place the bags under a heat lamp for 15-20 minutes.

After 15 minutes, students will observe that the bag of cereal with the most sugar produced the most carbon dioxide. I must warn you…. the bags do occasionally pop!

This lab offers an engaging way to model cellular respiration via alcoholic fermentation and will be a hit with your students. Click >>>HERE<<< to download the lab handout that I use with my students.

Want more? Check out my complete ENERGETICS UNIT where I cover Photosynthesis, Cellular Respiration, and Energy flow with engaging lessons, fun doodle notes, interesting labs and activities, and everything you need to teach a comprehensive Biology unit.

Thanks for stopping by so that I can share this fun lab for teaching cellular respiration with you!

Until next time….HAPPY TEACHING!

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