Activity 4.1 - Molecular Models for Cows Moving and Functioning: Cellular Respiration (45 min)

Target Student Performance

Students use molecular models to explain how carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen atoms are rearranged into new molecules in a cow’s cells.

Resources You Provide

Resources Provided

Recurring Resources


Prepare one model kit, one Molecular Models 11 x 17 Placemat, one pair of scissors, and one Forms of Energy Cards for each pair of students. Print one copy of the 4.1 Molecular Models for Cellular Respiration Worksheet for each student. Prepare a computer and a projector to display the PPT. Retrieve the materials from Activity 3.3. This may include PPT slides from the lesson in which you typed students’ unanswered questions or a photograph of their unanswered questions. Print and hang the Cow 11 x 17 Poster, Molecule Diagram 11 x 17 Poster, and Three Ways to Represent Glucose 11 x 17 Poster.


1. Use the instructional model to show students where they are in the course of the unit.


Listen for the students’ sense of necessity to make sure that atoms last forever during chemical changes. Asking them about the “atoms are forever” rule during the molecular modeling and animation may give you a sense of how committed they are to conserving matter.

If you had students complete the molecular modeling part of this activity, use 4.1 Grading the Molecular Models for Cellular Respiration Worksheet to get a sense of students’ initial ideas and explanations about cellular respiration in plants. Students should be able to follow instructions and complete the worksheet correctly, so it is reasonable to grade this worksheet.


  • Laminate the Molecular Models 11 x 17 Placemat. These will be used multiple times in each unit.
  • During the molecular modeling activity and animation, focus on how matter and energy are conserved through the chemical change. This is the main goal of the activity!

  • Strategic grouping with strong speakers
  • Build models for students to copy
Extending the Learning

This TED Talk about “the mathematics of weight loss” provides an alternative way of looking at how cellular respiration drives weight loss: