Living Systems Requirement for Free Energy & Matter Lesson Plan

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

It is important for your students to know that living systems require free energy and matter in order to continue to exist. Your students will learn by watching a video, identifying energy sources, and completing a worksheet.

Learning Objectives

At the completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain the importance of free energy in living systems
  • identify how the sun's energy and water is used by living organisms
  • describe the role of plants in providing free energy
  • explain the need for living organisms to store energy


1.5 - 2 hours

Curriculum Standards

  • HS-LS1-6: Construct and revise an explanation based on evidence for how carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen from sugar molecules may combine with other elements to form amino acids and/or other large carbon-based molecules.
  • HS-LS2-4: Use mathematical representations to support claims for the cycling of matter and flow of energy among organisms in an ecosystem.


  • Computer with projector
  • Copies of the lesson worksheet
  • Transparencies of photosynthesis and cellular respiration
  • Paper or plastic plates
  • Several pieces of various plastic or rubber foods (Try to have a wide variety of food items to include, vegetables, fruits, meats, bread, etc.)
  • Legal-sized printer paper
  • Colored pencils


  • Begin this lesson by asking your students where they get their energy from. Allow several students to answer. One will likely answer that it comes from the food they eat.
  • Follow up that question by asking your students to tell you where the energy in their food comes from. (They may or may not be able to answer this question.)
  • Tell your students that they are going to learn the answer to that question as well as how energy moves through living systems as they watch the Living Systems Requirement for Free Energy and Matter video.
  • Play the video for your students and pause it periodically for discussions.
  • Start the video from the beginning and pause it for the first time at 2:29 to ask and discuss the following:
    • Where does all of the energy in the earth come from?
    • What are the four most important elements or molecules for living systems and why?
    • Why is it important for matter to be exchanged between living organisms and the environment?
  • Continue playing the video and pause it again at 4:14, then ask and do the following as a class:
    • What process do autotrophs use to make their food?
    • Project the transparency of photosynthesis and go over each step to show how the sun puts energy in and plants use that initial energy to make food and more energy.
    • What gets broken down to get energy during the process of cellular respiration?
    • Project the transparency of cellular respiration and go over each step to show how energy is extracted from carbohydrates. Be sure to explain that the original source of the carbohydrate is a plant.
  • Continue playing the remainder of the video. Answer any questions that your students may have at this point.

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