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Climate Status Investigations
Department of Energy
National Energy Technology Laboratory
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Lesson 4. It's OK to Breathe

Week One Lessons
1. Special Delivery

2. Opinion Activity
3. Developing Models
4. It's OK to Breathe
5. Too Cool for School

Photosynthesis & Cellular Respiration | Life Science (Biology)

Links on this page: It’s Okay to Breathe-Lab Procedure

National Education Standards Met:

science math discipline


Goal: Students define key terms and link animal and plant cellular functions based on experimental data and observations.

Objectives: Students will...

  • Observe the differences between photosynthesis and cellular respiration
  • Observe the links due to climate changes
  • Relate how climate change affects their lives

Materials (for a class of 30):

  • LabPro or CBL 2 interface
  • 250 ml respiration chamber (included with the Vernier CO2 Gas Sensor)
  • TI Graphing Calculator
  • plant leaves
  • DataMate program
  • 500 ml tissue culture flask
  • Vernier CO2 Gas Sensor,, Order Code: CO2-BTA, $249.00
  • lamp
  • Aluminum foil
  • forceps

Time Required: 45-60 minute period

Standards Met: S1, S3, S5, S6, S7, DA1, DA2, DA3, GM1


  • Set up lab stations, enough to have no more than 4 students per group.
  • Review background information and the concepts of photosynthesis and cellular respiration.
  • Determine if you’ll be using graphing calculators or Pasco CO2 computer program.


  • Explain to students that they will be investigating the carbon cycle as it relates to global climate change.
  • Get students into groups of 3 or 4.
  • Hand out student sheets.
  • Review the background information.
  • Review the student procedure and expectations.
  • Circulate as students begin the lab.
  • Students should continue to monitor the experiment and fill in Table 1.


  • Participation and completion of lab activity

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It’s Okay to Breathe-Lab Procedure

Background Information:

Photosynthesis is a biochemical process in which plants, algae, and some bacteria harness the energy of light to produce food. Ultimately, nearly all living things depend on energy produced from photosynthesis for their nourishment, making it vital to life on Earth. It is also responsible for producing the oxygen that makes up a large portion of the Earth's atmosphere.

Cellular respiration allows organisms to use (release) the energy stored in glucose. The energy in glucose is first used to produce ATP. Cells use ATP to supply their energy needs. Cellular respiration is therefore a process in which the energy in glucose is transferred to ATP.

  • Plug the CO2 gas sensor into Channel 1(CH1) of the LabPro or CBL 2 interface. Use the link cable to connect the RI Graphing Calculator to the interface. Firmly press in the cable ends.

  • Turn on the calculator and start the datamate program. Press clear to reset the program.

  • Set up the calculator and interface for a CO2 Gas Sensor.
    - Select setup from the main screen.
    -Press enter to select CH1.
    -Select CO2 gas from the select sensor menu.
    -Select parts per thousand (ppt) as the unit.

  • Set up the data collection mode.
    -To select Mode press * (the up arrow key) once and press enter.
    -Select Time graph from the select sensor menu.
    -Select change time setting from the time graph setting menu.
    -Enter « 15 » as the time between samples in seconds
    -Enter « 40 « as the number of samples (data will be collected for 10 minutes)
    -Select Advanced from the time graph settings menus.
    -Select change graph settings from the adv. Time graph settings menu
    -Select CH 1-CO2 Gas (ppt) from the select menu
    -Enter « 0 » for Ymin, « 2 » as Ymax , and « 0.1 » as Ysci
    -Select ok three times to return to the main screen

  • Obtain several leaves from the resource table and blot them dry. If damp, place between two pieces of paper towel.

  • Place the leaves into the respiration chamber using forceps if necessary. Wrap the respiration chamber in aluminum foil so that no light reaches the leaves.

  • Place the CO2 Gas Sensor probe into the bottle. Gently twist the stopper on the shaft of the CO2 Gas Sensor into the chamber opening. Do not twist the shaft of the CO2 Gas Sensor or you may damage it. Wait 3 minutes before proceeding to the next step.

  • Select start to begin data collection. Data will be collected for 10 minutes.
    When data collection has finished, a graph of CO2 gas vs, time will be displayed. Press enter to return to the main screen.

  • Perform a linear regression to calculate the rate of respiration/photosynthesis.
    -Select analyze from the main screen
    -Select curve fit from the analyze options menu
    -Select linear (Ch1 vs time) from the curve fit menu
    -The linear-regression statistics for these two lists are displayed for the equation in the form : Y=A*X+B
    -Enter the absolute value of the slope, A, as the rate in table 1.
    -Press enter to view a graph of the data and the regression line.
    - Press enter to return to the analyze menu
    - Select return to main screen from the analyze menu.

  • Remove the aluminum foil from around the respiration chamber.

  • Fill the tissue culture flask with water and place it between the lamp and the respiration chamber. The flask will act as a heat shield to protect the plant leaves.

  • Turn the lamp on. Place the lamp as close to the leaves as reasonable. Do not let the lamp touch the tissue culture flask. Note the time. The lamp should be on for 3 minutes prior to beginning data collection.

  • Store the data from the first run so that it can be used later.
    -Select tools from the main screen
    -Select store latest run from the tools menu

  • After the three minutes time period is up, repeat steps 8-10.

  • Graph both runs of data on a single graph. To do this :
    -Select graph from the main screen, then press enter.
    - Select more, then select L2 and L3 vsL1 from the more graphs menu.
    -Both runs should now be displayed on the same graph. The following cursor will be on the graph the second run (in the light). The data from the first run (in the dark) is identified by square point protectors.
    -Examine the data points along the displayed curve of L2 (light) vs L1. As you move the cursor right or left, the time(x) and oxygen concentration (y) values of each data point are displayed the below the graph.
    -Press * to switch the cursor to the curve of L3(dark) vs L1. Examine the data points along the curve.
    - (optional) Print a copy of your graph per your teacher’s instructions.
    -When finished with the graph press enter to exit.
    -Select return to graphs screen from the more graphs menu.
    -Select main screen from the graph screen
    - Select quit from the main screen to exit the program.

  • Remove the plant leaves from the respiration chamber, using forceps if necessary. Clean and dry the respiration chamber.

Table 1.

Leaves Rate of Respiration/Photosynthesis (PPT/S)
In the Dark  
In the Light  


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