Take a Breath! Using a Motion Graphic

This motion graphic project was used with my science students to challenge them to illustrate their understanding of breathing as part of how organisms sustain life.  It has many possible options for differentiation for all ages from 11-18, from simple inhalation and exhalation to gas exchange and circulation of the gases around the body.   

This project was chosen because it enables students to engage with the concepts of molecular movement and proportion (of different gases) while demonstrating the skill of developing and using models. 

Options for differentiation are possible by extending students to include additional modeling of how muscles allow for breathing to take place and what happens to the gases after entering the lungs.  For example, including in the motion graphic muscle contractions, gas exchange, diffusion, and the circulation of gases around the body by creating more complex templates.


In this project, students focus on skills of developing and using models. The objectives of the lesson are that students create a motion graphic as a model that:

  • Demonstrates what happens when inhalation and exhalation take place
  • Models the relative proportions of oxygen and carbon dioxide during inhalation and exhalation

When completing the project, students demonstrated a high level of engagement and motivation in model building through creating their motion graphic.  They collaborated in pairs, designing the arrangement and path of the molecules for inhalation an exhalation.  Their motion graphic design included consideration of both proportion of gases and molecular movement.

As teachers, we can also use this motion graphic project as an assessment opportunity.  We are able to see where students might have misconceptions.  For example, students' belief that the gases go directly to cells through an open ended blood vessel:

Additionally, students could be extended and challenged to modify to their motion graphic by adding additional structures and motion that show:

  • How does oxygen reach the cells?
  • What happens during respiration? (in terms of proportion of gases) 
  • How is carbon dioxide removed from cells?

This is an example of a students' submission for the extension: 

Again, we can see through the process where other student misconceptions may lie.  In this case, that breathing and circulation move each gas individually.


Here are some tips and tricks learned from creating motion graphics in the classroom:

  • Start with the end in mind! For students new to modeling, have them create a hand drawn model to plan out their vision of the motion graphic they want to create in Keynote.
  • Consider a template for support - A Keynote template can provide a starting image or structure for students to add shapes and motion to in order to create their motion graphic model.  These can be useful if you are teaching a specific process with different parts interacting.  It enables students to focus on the way in which the parts interact to demonstrate learning and can avoid students hesitating on where to start. More advanced or experienced students can create from scratch!
  • Supporting tutorials - Use Quicktime to make short screencasts of different skills students need to know to create their motion graphic, such as how to add different shapes and create movement for that shape.  Students can then work independently and refer back to these as they build their project.

Using a motion graphic in Science is extremely versatile and can be used to have students demonstrate any process that has multiple components interacting over time.  Younger students can show how a plant grows while advanced high school students can show complex cellular processes such as protein synthesis and DNA replication.  Students are challenged to consider the scale, proportion and quantity of the component parts and move them together in a way that demonstrates their understanding of a process.  Notably, the discussion and questions that accompany the creation of the motion graphic, between students themselves and you as their teacher, can be one of the most valuable parts of the process - Give it a try in your classroom and see for yourself!

Learn how, and explore more Everyone Can Create Projects >


An image of an illustrated student with an iPad showing their work to their teacher.


All Comments

Posted on September 05, 2023

Wow - such creative and helpful models. The visualizations and motion makes the concepts so clear. Wonderful learning lesson for students and certainly has applications to other disciplines. Thanks for the details and the share!

Posted on December 02, 2023

Great resource, and thanks for the tips and tricks. They are really useful!

Maximum file size: 400MB

Insert a video

Insert an image

Insert an image

125: 125
220: 220

This action can’t be undone.

Error Message

Are you sure you want to continue? Your changes will not be saved.

This post contains content from YouTube.

If you choose to view this content, YouTube may collect and process certain personal data. You can view YouTube’s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/t/privacy" target="_blank">privacy policy here<span class="a11y">(opens in new window)</span>.</a>

This post contains content from YouTube.

You’ve rejected content from YouTube. Tap the button below to change your consent.