Resource Type
Completion Time
About 1 period
Middle School and Up
Download and Share
Bridget Ward
Heather Liwanag
Related Members
Weddell seal pup picture slide
Class set of worksheets
Life Science
Organisms and Their Environments
Structure and Function
Regulation and Behavior
Environmental Studies


This lesson investigates the correlation between the rate of cellular respiration and metabolic rate of Weddell seal pups. Students will collect data of their personal oxygen consumption rate at rest and during exercise, and evaluate how collecting oxygen data can be used to calculate metabolic rate. Students will comprehend that heat is a product of the reaction of cellular respiration and therefore metabolism.


  • Students will collect and analyze data of oxygen consumption to calculate metabolic rate.
  • Students will understand the relationship between cellular respiration, metabolism and maintaining homeostasis of body temperature.
  • Students will investigate if Weddell seal pups use more energy to stay warm on land or in the water.

Lesson Preparation

  1. Prepare Class set of copies of: Surviving the Extreme: Do Weddell seal pups use more energy to stay warm on land or in the water?

  2. 1 stopwatch per group

  3. PDF of Staying warm in the Extreme Weddell seal pups, including pictures of seal pups


Activator/Pre-Lab: You have been hiking and wandered off the trail, and now you are lost! Immediately you reach for your phone, but you have no service. You look in your backpack to find you have a bottle of water, a chocolate protein bar, and a down jacket. You are starting to get cold; the temperature is dropping below freezing. What do you do to stay warm? Experiment: Students collect personal respiration rate data, number of breaths taken at rest and after exercise.

Analyzed data will support key concept: When organisms increase physical activity the amount of oxygen cells require increases, because the rate of cellular respiration increases. As the rate of cellular respiration increases, an organism’s metabolic rate increases, and more heat is produced.

Data Analysis: Students are introduced to methods scientists use to measure metabolic rate of Weddell seal pups. Students analyze oxygen consumption data collected in Antarctica of Weddell seal pups to investigate if pups use more energy to stay warm on ice or in sea water, by calculating metabolic rates.

Wrap Up Question: During this experiment you analyzed data of oxygen consumption because oxygen is required for cellular respiration, which is a chemical reaction of metabolism. Explain the pathway oxygen travels to get to cells to be used for cellular respiration.


Fur vs Blubber: Which is the better insulator for Marine Mammals? Students will investigate anatomical structures marine mammals use to maintain homeostasis


Virtual learning: Instead of working in partners to collect data, teacher can record time while students count number of breathes. Entire lab easily completed virtually.

Lower-level modification: provide students metabolic rates data, instead of having students calculate.

Laboratory modification: have students use oxygen probes to collect personal data.


Surviving the Extreme: Do Weddell seal pups use more energy to stay warm on land or in the water Lab and Teacher Guide


Completed Lab Worksheet


Bridget Ward, 2021 PolarTREC Teacher
Springfield Central High School
Springfield, MA
Bridgetlward [at]



Standards Other

Polar Literacy Principles 1C: The physical characteristics of the environment (weather, climate, topography, geology) are significantly different.

1D: Polar climates create different living conditions.

4B Sea ice cover, water and air temperature change with the seasons.

NGSS (HS-LS1-7) Use a model to illustrate that cellular respiration is a chemical process whereby the bonds of food molecules and oxygen molecules are broken and the bonds in new compounds are formed resulting in a net transfer of energy. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the conceptual understanding of the inputs and outputs of the process of cellular respiration.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment should not include identification of the steps or specific processes involved in cellular respiration.]

(HS-LS1-3) Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence that feedback mechanisms maintain homeostasis. [Clarification Statement: Examples of investigations could include heart rate response to exercise, stomate response to moisture and temperature, and root development in response to water levels.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the cellular processes involved in the feedback mechanism.]

Science and Engineering Practices (HS-LS1-1) Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to explanations and designs that are supported by multiple and independent student-generated sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories.

Construct an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students’ own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

(HS-LS1-2) Developing and Using Models Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed world. Develop and use a model based on evidence to illustrate the relationships between systems or between components of a system. (HS-LS1-2)

(HS-LS1-3) Planning and Carrying Out Investigations Planning and carrying out in 9-12 builds on K-8 experiences and progresses to include investigations that provide evidence for and test conceptual, mathematical, physical, and empirical models.

Plan and conduct an investigation individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, and in the design: decide on types, how much, and accuracy of data needed to produce reliable measurements and consider limitations on the precision of the data (e.g., number of trials, cost, risk, time), and refine the design accordingly.

(HS-LS1-3) Scientific Investigations Use a Variety of Methods Scientific inquiry is characterized by a common set of values that include: logical thinking, precision, open-mindedness, objectivity, skepticism, replicability of results, and honest and ethical reporting of findings.

(HS-LS4-1) Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to evaluating the validity and reliability of the claims, methods, and designs.

Communicate scientific information (e.g., about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (including orally, graphically, textually, and mathematically).

This program is supported by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed by this program are those of the PIs and coordinating team, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.