Yeast Balloon Lab

This is a fun yeast lab that can be used to teach about Fungi in a Taxonomy unit, or to teach about anaerobic respiration in the Cellular Respiration Unit, or just  as a simple introduction to inquiry:

Fungi yeast balloon lab

It focuses on how much CO2 yeast produce in environments with different amounts of sugar in them. My students generally found that the yeast produced the most CO2 for 1mL and 5mL of sugar solution.

To make it inquiry-based:

  • have them first complete this lab, and then ask them the question: what else could affect the rate of yeast CO2 emission?
  • I would suggest leaving the amount of yeast the same, and then changing either the amount of sugar (make the measurements more specific), the amount of sunlight, or the temperature of the water

Thoughts and Tips:

  • students need to know how to make a wet mount slide prior to this lab
  • it’s best if this is done during a lab block (80-ish minutes)–it will take them about 30 minutes to set up, and then they’ll have 40 minutes for data collection
  • pre-heat the water for the yeast to about 90C so that the students can get started with the lab straightaway
  • have the students heat up the water as they’re stirring the sugar in to get more of it to dissolve

From the Students:

“I have never done any labs in my past years in science and it felt like an actual experiment was occurring and it was a very interesting topic”

“It was cool to see something blow up with touching it”

Cellular Respiration: The Play

My students (and I) were getting bored with the chalkboard and teacher version of understanding cellular respiration, so I decided to try something different: acting. This was an epic fail when I was a student teacher (complete with me standing on my desk and yelling out instructions), but I tweaked it this time around and made a script, assigned everyone roles, and even made one of the students the narrator:

Cellular Respiration The Play

This time around, it was a huge success–the students really loved that they could see how the sugar molecule was breaking down and where each of those carbons were going.


  • type in the students name directly onto the document so that they can see how they are “cast” throughout
  • have some of the roles carry though (i.e. have the 3 kids in pyruvate #1 from glycolysis be the pyruvate molecule in the Krebs cycle)–this makes it more fun for the kids and helps them to see how it’s a continuous process
  • have them make signs indicating what they are (i.e. ATP #1 had a sign that said ATP on one side and ADP on the other side so that everyone could see the switch that was made)
  • have them do one stage at a time–to to it all from start to finish gets complicated with the part switches
  • have them do a “dress rehearsal”–I had them all run through their parts one time, and then they did the “final show” which ran much smoother

Truth and Beauty in Cells

This is why we teach the cell–not because it’s a part of the curriculum or because it’s “essential to biology,” but because it’s an integral part of the truth and beauty that makes you…you.

truth and beauty in cells

“…Truth and beauty are things that are often opaque to people who are not in the sciences. They are things that describe beauty in a way that is often only accessible if you understand the language and the syntax of the person who studies the subject in which truth and beauty is expressed…I wanted to figure out a way to help people understand truth and beauty in the biological sciences by using animation, by using pictures, by telling stories so that the things that are not necessarily evident to people can be brought forth, and can be taught, and can be understood.”

-David Bolinsky in his TED Talk, Visualizing the Wonder of a Living Cell