directions for acting game

Acting out cellular respiration as a ball game
E-Mail Address:
Dipl. Ing. Konrad Kaufmann
[email protected]
Private/St. Veitgasse 38/5, 1130 Wien
Marking the actors/actresses
The function of the actors/actresses (which biochemically active substances they represent) can be
identified through differently colored clothing. T-shirts work the best but caps or handkerchiefs also
work. The game can also work without these color-markings.
Oxygen transport system (one person):
Glucose transporter (one person):
Glycolysis enzyme and citric acid cycle (one person):
Respiration cycle enzyme (one person):
Plants (multiple people):
T-shirts, caps or colored handkerchiefs to mark the actors/actresses.
Balls – Molecules
It should be possible to separate and add atoms; therefore balls of wool, balls of vegetable nets and
plush balls known as “rag balls” (made of fabric and filled with rags) or fruits are well suited.
The use of produce as balls may lead to a heated discussion. Admittedly playing with fruit strikes me
as sensible exactly for this reason, to spark a discussion. I would like to refer to a traditional
celebrations, during which masses of oranges and tomatoes were played with and above all, that the
fruit could still be used after the game. Described here is the use of plush balls, “rag balls,” with sewn
on Velcro-fasteners. Otherwise, the balls or fruit are fastened on both sides with toothpicks or
skewers. With this in mind it is important that in dismantling the game the toothpicks are removed in
order to avoid injuring the actors/actresses. Plush balls with sewn on Velcro-fasteners are the best
solution if the game will be played often and without the preparation time involved in the purchasing
of fruit.
Acting out of respiration
The oxygen transport system and the glucose transporter actors sit next to each other at a table. On
the table 6 carbohydrate molecules and 3 oxygen molecules are distributed. Behind their backs is
another table. This table is empty at the beginning of the game.
The actors sit between the tables so that one arm is on the table with the 6 carbohydrate molecules
and 3 oxygen molecules and the other arm rests on the empty table. The actors of the glycolysis
enzyme and citric acid cycle (one person) and the respiration cycle enzyme (one person) sit at this
empty table.
Plush balls with
Colored balls
2 connected red
plush balls
2 red apples connected to each
2 connected
red balls
Black plush balls
2 small blue plush
Orange or apple of different colors
connected to two plums
Black ball
2 small blue
The task of the oxygen transport system is to pick up the individual oxygen molecules and set them
on the empty table next to him or her. The glucose transporter takes the carbohydrate molecules
and also sets it on the empty table.
The person playing the glucose enzyme and citric acid cycle separates the two hydrogen atoms from
the carbohydrate molecules (black plush balls + 2 blue plush balls). In doing so CO2 is released (black
plush ball) into the surrounding area and is flushed from the cell. During the acting game the ball
remains on the table. WARNING: If using toothpicks, these should be removed to avoid injury.
The two hydrogen atoms are passed on to the person who represents the enzymes of the respiration
cycle. The actor takes the hydrogen atoms and an oxygen molecule that was placed on the table by
the oxygen transport system. As soon as 4 hydrogen atoms have been adopted, the oxygen molecule
and the 4 hydrogen atoms are built into 2 water molecules.
These molecules are released into the surrounding area and remain on the table temporarily. The
game has run its short course (under the current conditions) when all carbohydrate molecules have
been used. At this point the “aha effect” enters the scene, namely that a cycle is needed in order to
supply breathing organisms (consumers and destruents). To show this, the actors portraying plants
are brought into the game.
Two chairs are positioned at the narrow side of the table at which the glycolysis and citric acid cycle
and the respiratory cycle enzyme actors are sitting for the plant actors.
They collect all of the carbon dioxide molecules and water molecules laying on the table and stick
together the atoms of the corresponding basic equation of photosynthesis.
Hydrogen atoms (blue plush balls) are separated from the water molecules.
The remaining oxygen atoms (red plush balls) are joined into pairs (oxygen molecules). The oxygen
molecules are laid on the table in front of the oxygen transport system – the oxygen is released into
the atmosphere by plants.
Carbohydrates are built from the separated hydrogen atoms and carbon dioxide molecules (black
balls). CO2 and two hydrogen atoms are stuck together. The carbohydrate molecule is laid on the
table for the glucose transporter.
Plants build oxygen and carbohydrates from the water and carbon dioxide molecules lying on the
The loop is closed. Now the acting game can be continued as a cycle. In repeating the game it
becomes obvious that the biomass and oxygen on Earth is created through photosynthesis by
sunlight that is converted into chemically binding energy and that the oxygen in the atmosphere is
released from water. Breathing organisms are dependent on this supply of nutrition and oxygen. It is
important to begin with respiration, in order to show that without a closed loop cycle, breathing
organisms on Earth could not live. Having begun with respiration, the game can be played further by
connecting the simplified portrayal of photosynthesis to complete the cycle. Still better, position a
table to next to the actors of the glycolysis enzyme and citric acid cycle from the respiration cycle. At
this table connect the acting out of photosynthesis, in order to highlight that the energy of all
creatures on Earth comes from the sun.
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