Bonnie Waltz, Deanna Mayers, Tracy Rains
Life Science, Biology
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
9, 10, 11, 12
  • 5E
  • 5e
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Biological Systems
  • Biology
  • Cellular Energy
  • Inquiry-based
  • inquiry-based
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Media Formats:
    Downloadable docs, Interactive, Text/HTML, Video

    ATP as Cellular Energy

    ATP as Cellular Energy


    In this seminar you will read closely and analyze the structure of ATP- Adenosine Triphosphate. You will curate your own  information about the importance of ATP in a cell by listening and reading text as to what the experts have to say.  By modeling the function of ATP in an inquiry lab you can accurately identify the  various levels of cellular work done by Adenosine Triphosphate.


    BIO.A.3.1.1 Describe the fundamental roles of plastids (e.g., chloroplasts) and mitochondria in energy transformations.

    BIO.A.3.2.1 Compare and contrast the basic transformation of energy during photosynthesis and cellular respiration.

    BIO.A.3.2.2 Describe the role of ATP in biochemical reactions


    Introductory warm-up activity.

    Let's take a LOOK at ATP and see what you can see!

    Look closely at the Image! What do you see? Pictures can speak many words if you look closely.



    Attributed to :By OpenStax College - Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions Web site., Jun 19, 2013., CC BY 3.0,

    • Can you name the three molecules use to build Adenosine triphosphate?

    • Can you compare AMP, ADP and ATP?

    • Can you remember what force two similar charges will enact upon each other?

    • Which phosphate do you think is the unstable one due to the force of two negative charges?

    • Which bond is most likely to break to release energy?


    Read or watch the resources to learn about this concept, then do the practice activity.

    Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is the only molecule that is used for direct cellular energy. Its unique structure allows the cell to utilize this chemical to carry out all cellular processes such as homeostasis, transport, and cellular movement that translates to the movement of the entire organism. How can such a simple molecule pack such a punch? Let’s find out.  Choose some of the following ways in the explore section to learn about the structure of ATP and its function in biological systems.




    Energy, Work and ATP.  Find out the importance of this trio of words: Click Here.

    Want to dig into deeper thoughts about ATP? Click here.

    View what Paul Anderson has to say about the structure and function of ATP. View Here.

    A Quick PowToon animation of the cycle of ATP and ADP.


    We can always grow our brain by practice! Do this quizlet and identify two new terms from your practice. Now try this review of essential concepts. Click here.


    Discuss your ideas / opinions / understandings.

    Check out this advertisement for the next generation sports drink or supplement to enhance performance.  Generate some plausible questions about its effectiveness based on what you have learned so far about the structure and function of ATP.  Are there misconceptions that the advertisement is creating about cellular energy? Discuss with at least one peer and reply to their response.


    quiz for your own self-checking

    Now it is time to self-check how much you have learned about the this topic.  If you do not know as much as you thought, go back to the “Explore” section of this seminar and reread, rewatch, or redo the activities listed.  See your facilitator if you have questions.

    Click here to take the quiz online. You do not have to log into the quiz site in order to take this quiz. If a window pops up asking you to sign up for the quiz site, just close the sign-up window and start your quiz.


    This is a task or project where you can show what you know.

    Time to launch! In this inquiry lab, you will be modeling how launched projectiles model ATP and cellular work in the cell.

    What’s up with ATP?

    Background: ATP is the molecule responsible for providing most cells with energy. It is a molecule that consists of adenine, ribose sugar, and three phosphate groups. The energy is stored in the bond of the last or terminal phosphate group. Energy is essential for all life forms. Energy is needed to do work, while work, by definition, is the ability to apply a force over a distance. Many cellular process require the movement of particles or chemical compounds from place to place. Multicellular organisms require the working of thousands of cells moving together to perform functions.

    Attributed to:  By Muessig - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,



    1-  Determine the amount of energy needed to perform work of various cellular functions.

    2- Simulate the regeneration of ATP from ADP.

    Purpose:  Targets with varying amounts of mass are set up and each is labeled with the cellular work being done. It is your job to determine how much ATP is required to knock over each target. Before energy can be released to do work from your launcher (ATP), it must have all three phosphates to represent ATP. Only the terminal or last projectile (phosphate group) can be used to release energy from the bond or launcher. Regeneration must happen before energy is released again.

    Task: Design an experiment to determine how much energy from ATP it takes to knock down the various massed targets. You will use a nerf launcher to model the ATP---> ADP molecules.

    Pre- lab Discussion:

    1. How does the “atom blaster” model an ATP molecule?

    2. Relate the structure of the “atom blaster” to the structure of the ATP molecule.

    3. Determine how potential energy (energy of position) can be converted to kinetic energy (energy of motion) in this model.


    1. Create a list of steps for your designed experiment.

    2. Design a table used for data collection. Each variable will need to be identified. Determine how many trials are needed and report data as averages.

    3. Create a graph of data showing the variables (independent and dependent) along with units.

    4. All diagrams must be labeled.


    1. Summarize how your experimental design modeled ATP.

    2. Reflect on the data. Is there another way to collect data to show the work ATP does in cellular processes?

    3. How does your experimental design affect the outcome measured? Can this lead to invalid data? Explain.

    Conclusion:  Use your results to share your conclusion with the class; be sure to make the connection between ATP and cellular work. An image (diagram) must be included.


    Inquiry lab

    Advanced /Mastery

    Mastery/ Basic

    Basic/ Below


    Details of the procedure are very specific. The generated list is comprehensive and well thought out to obtain valid data.

    What’s missing:

    The generated list is comprehensive and well thought out to obtain valid data.

    What’s missing:

    The generated list of steps is a general description. List incomplete.

    What’s missing:


    The summary is complete and demonstrates clear understanding with the use of correct terminology. Reflection identifies flaws in procedure.

    What’s missing:

    The summary is complete and demonstrates a correct description of the model.

    Correct terminology is used.

    What’s missing:

    The summary is general in description or lacking specific use of correct terms.

    What’s missing:


    Images such as data tables and graphs are used to state a correct conclusion using various key terms.

    What’s missing:

    Images such as data tables and graphs are used to state a correct conclusion using proper terminology.

    What’s missing:

    Images are general or not present to state conclusion. Conclusion incorrect.

    What’s missing:


    Complete this wrap-up activity where you reflect on your learning.  

    What was the most interesting concept you learned about ATP? How does this connect to your life?