How do biological organisms use energy?

This analysis and discussion activity is designed to help students understand the basic principles of how biological organisms use energy, with a focus on the roles of ATP and cellular respiration. This activity provides a useful basic understanding of cellular respiration and provides an important conceptual framework for students who will be learning the complex specifics of cellular respiration. This activity concludes with a brief introduction to two important principles: conservation of energy and the inefficiency of energy transformations. 

The first attached file has the Student Handout and the second attached file has the Teacher Notes. The Teacher Notes provide background information and instructional suggestions and explain how this activity is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.

how organisms use energy SHO.docx643.85 KB
how organisms use energy TN.docx2.24 MB


iwaldron's picture

2014 revision

The Student Handout has been substantially revised to align this activity more closely with the Next Generation Science Standards and to improve student understanding of energy, ATP and cellular respiration. The revised Teacher Notes provide improved teaching suggestions and background information.

iwaldron's picture

2013 revision

The 2013 revision of this activity has clarified explanations and questions in the Student Handout and background information and an optional additional activity "Sports Physiology – Energy" in the Teacher Notes.

zulkifli simatupang's picture


information on the website is very helpful to me and my wife in preparing to teach biology, thank you.

Jody Barr's picture


First question in the handout states that "opposite charges repel"...that should be "like charges repel".

iwaldron's picture

Error in Student Handout Fixed

Thank you so much for letting me know about this error. I have posted a corrected student handout.

Thanks again,


Gamal Sherif's picture


Thank you so much. This is very clear and well-organized. We're just finishing up plant growth in which teams of students chose independent variables and recorded data. We're also comparing photosynthesis and respiration.

The "misconceptions" resources are well-organized.

Thanks again.

Serendip Visitor's picture


this is an awesome website..... thank you, thank you, thank you

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