The Oxygen Machine

The Oxygen Machine Photo Credit: Clipart.com


This lesson will allow you to go through a series of resources so that you may learn about the respiration process (how we breathe), its importance as fuel to our cells, and its importance in health and disease. 


Read The Mystery of Mallory & Irvine '24. Be ready to answer these questions in a class discussion (you can record your answers on The Oxygen Machine student sheet):

  • What seems to be the biggest obstacle climbers faced in climbing Mount Everest?
  • What is the “English Air” referred to in the story? Why did the climbers use it?
  • Why does the human body need oxygen?

Mechanics of Respiration
Respiration (breathing) is so automatic that we rarely think about it, unless we feel that enough air is not getting into our bodies. Respiration is the process that allows us to breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Oxygen is then used in our cells as the fuel that transforms the food we eat into energy.

Begin by reading the Mechanics of Respiration to learn about the basic process of respiration and the parts of the body that are involved in the process. As you are reading, think about your answers to these questions:

  • Which gases are exchanged in the process of respiration?
  • Why might it be better to breathe in through the nose than through the mouth?
  • What are the four parts of your respiratory system and what do they do?
  • What happens to air once it reaches your lungs?
  • What part of the blood carries oxygen to the rest of your body?

Respiration as Combustion for the Production of Energy
Read How the Body Uses O2 on the PBS website. (Note:  #7 and #8 focus on how oxygen is involved in energy production; the other information is a review of the respiration process outlined in the Mechanics of Respiration.)

After you finish this article, answer these questions:

  • Why do we breathe?
  • What happens in the process of respiration?
  • What cellular component allows the combustion process to occur?

The Importance of Respiration: Health, Fitness, and Disease
Listen to experts on Hear the Experts on the PBS website AND read OA Guide to High Altitude: Acclimatization and Illnesses on the Princeton University website. 

As you read, think about your answers to these questions, which you’ll discuss in class:

  • What factors affect how much oxygen your body needs?
  • What happens when your body doesn’t get enough oxygen?
  • Can you think of a situation (either in terms of physical activity or a medical problem) where you wouldn’t get enough oxygen?
  • Would your body react differently if you ascended to the summit of Mt. Everest (29,000 feet above sea level) via a balloon ride versus taking several weeks to ascend the mountain? Why or why not?

Knowledge Check

Write a two-paragraph summary of what you have learned in this lesson. Use examples from the sites you have visited and the class activities and discussions. Be prepared to share your summary with the class.

This esheet is a part of the The Oxygen Machine lesson.

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