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Creating a Photosynthesis Activity in the Classroom

written by: Sylvia Cochran • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 3/2/2012

A photosynthesis activity introduces schoolchildren to the means by which plants make their food. Photosynthesis -- for kids – opens the door to great experiments and fun projects that combine fun hands-on learning with fascinating science.

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    What is Photosynthesis?

    “A simplified diagram of photosynthesis” by Daniel Mayer (mav)/Wikimedia Commons A classroom photosynthesis activity must answer the basic questions about the photosynthetic process. In simplest terms – and when talking about plants – the process describes how flora utilizes water and sun energy to turn carbon dioxide into sugars and oxygen. Plants use chlorophyll, which is located inside chloroplasts, to facilitate the process. Incidentally, it is the chlorophyll that turns leaves green.

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    Photosynthesis for Kids

    Break down the steps of photosynthesis for very young children. PBS offers a computer flash graphic entitled “Illuminating Photosynthesis(1)” that breaks down the process into its simplest steps. For young children in particular, this is a great first introduction to the process that combines water, sunlight and carbon dioxide to create glucose and oxygen.

    Suitable for kids in classes from Kindergarten through elementary school, “The Cycle” portion sets the stage for hands-on experiments. The “Atomic Shuffle” outlines the chemistry behind the reaction, which allows for a seamless introduction to the older elementary school and middle school student.

    Older kids in particular benefit from understanding the workings of leaves and one possible activity related to photosynthesis should be an understanding of various leaf components. Enchanted Learning(2) introduces elementary and middle school students to the terminology involved and offers a printable to test the learning that already took place. At this stage, consider incorporating grade-appropriate science experiments related to photosynthesis.

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    Fun Class Activity on Photosynthesis

    Turn photosynthesis into a group production. Divide the children into six groups:

    1. Solar energy group (kids could wear yellow shirts, hats or tags)
    2. Leaf group (dress in green)
    3. Water group (children dress in dark blue)
    4. Carbon dioxide group (kids dress in red)
    5. Oxygen group (kids dress in light blue)
    6. Sugar group (children dress in white)

    Instruct the children to act out the photosynthesis process in the schoolyard. This little play can take on numerous forms; one possible scenario is this: the leaf group children play dodge ball against the solar, water and carbon dioxide groups. Whenever a leaf group child registers a contact with the ball, an oxygen and a sugar group child enter the playing field on the side of the leaf children. Other options for utilizing this activity are to make a play complete with narrator, a ballet set to music or craft a mime performance.

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    Another printable photosynthesis activity is a good method for closing the lesson on this subject. Virginia Tech(3) offers an elementary school photosynthesis activity sheet that checks learning and alerts the student as well as the teacher to any missed points. It also encourages students to take the information just a bit further to tie in photosynthesis to the life cycle of a plant.

    If you have another photosynthesis activity resource appropriate for kids, please feel free to leave it in the comments section below.

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    Sources

    1. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/methuselah/phot_flash.html
    2. http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/plants/leaf/label/crosssection/
    3. http://sites.ext.vt.edu/virtualforest/pdf/PhotosynthesisActivitySheets.pdf

    Photo Source: “A simplified diagram of photosynthesis” by Daniel Mayer (mav)/Wikimedia Commons at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Simple_photosynthesis_overview.svg