WARREN, NJ  - Those who have ever baked bread from scratch know to combine flour, water, salt and yeast to make dough. Bakers may also be familiar with the chemistry behind how those billions of yeast cells turn the gloppy mass into a fluffy, fragrant loaf.

It is with this in mind that Warren Middle School science teachers Kelly Brown, Patricia LaMorte, Daniel Ticchio and Kathryn Speckin introduced yeast into a seventh grade cross-curricular lesson on cellular respiration and fermentation on Wednesday, Jan. 11 using a combination of science, math, social studies and a little bit of home arts.

“We use yeast because it is a unicellular organism in the Fungi Kingdom, so the students can work with an organism that they know little about, yet are familiar with,” said seventh grade science teacher Daniel Ticchio.

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The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) emphasize teaching cellular respiration as part of a unit on ecosystems, so, “we have added some lessons this year to teach students about the way organisms get energy by breaking down glucose into ATP at the cellular level,” Ticchio said.

ATP, short for adenosine triphosphate, is a molecule that stores energy in every cell. During the hands-on lab, students were tasked with making qualitative notations about what they observed as well as graphing quantifiable measures like temperature and the height of the carbon dioxide bubbles created by fermentation (or anaerobic respiration) of the yeast organism.

The students should come away with an understanding, “that organisms need ATP (energy) to live and that the main purpose for animals such as humans to take in oxygen is so that we can break down our food into energy,” Ticchio added. “They all know we need oxygen to live, but now they should understand why.”

“The entire middle school science department should be commended for their ongoing work around revising the middle school science program to address the rigor of the state-adopted Next Generation Science Standards,” said Curriculum Coordinator William Kimmick. “These lessons are an example of how the teachers provide student experiences that enable them to access complex practices and content.”

Ticchio said the cellular respiration lesson also enhanced student learning of photosynthesis, with teachers referring back to previous lessons on the topic. The students can “now see that plants make the glucose to be broken down for their energy,” she said. “So the plants can grow and reproduce.”


PHOTO #1 – Seventh grader Erin Son utilizes yeast in a lab on cellular respiration at Warren Middle School on Jan. 11.
PHOTO #2 – The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) emphasize teaching cellular respiration as part of a unit on ecosystems.

PHOTO #3 – Amedeo Bove (L) and Michael Oliveira work together in a 7th grade lab on cellular respiration on Jan. 11.
PHOTO #4 – Seventh graders (L-R) Anya Solanki, Emily Dang and Grace Scali enjoy a hands-on lesson on cellular respiration on Jan. 11.