How to Teach Glycolysis to Children

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Glycolysis is the method by which Glucose is broken down to yield two molecules of pyruvic acid. The reaction can be carried out in the absence of oxygen, making it an anaerobic reaction. An example of glycolysis occurs in the human body during strenuous exercise: The muscles build up lactic acid as a by-product. In plants, the process produces ethanol. In both instances, the exact phenomenon is termed fermentation. This article provides a way to teach this complex sequence to children.

Teaching Glycolysis to Children

    Try this with a group of children, but only two are needed for the actual exercise. Take the two kids and have them hold hands. Place a tag on each; they are "Glucose." Give one a ball; now they are "Glucose-6-Phosphate." The balls here represent a phosphate group. Change the tag.

    Put jackets on both children. The jackets represent a different appearance but the children (core) are the same, just as Glucose and Fructose have the same amount of atoms but are distributed differently. Now they are "Fructose-6-Phosphate." Change the tag. Give the other child a ball now they "Fructose-1,6-Bisphosphate." Change the tag.

    Separate the two kids and give them each another ball (phosphate). Collectively they should have four balls (phosphates) and change the tag to "PGA," or Phosphoglyceraldehyde. Then both kids should give up all of their balls (phosphates). Change the tag to read Pyruvic Acid. This is the end of the pathway.

    Things You'll Need

    • 10 Name tags
    • Four small balls
    • Two hats
    • Two jackets


    • The balls represent the phosphate groups moving in and out of the glycolytic pathway. This provides a easy way of seeing what is actually happening in the glycolysis. As you change elements and and props, explain to the children what is happening biologically so they can make the connection between the exercise and science behind it.

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