Plant Biomass (Photosynthesis)

Contributor
Victor Sampson & Sharon Schleigh
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Lesson/Lesson Plan
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

This is one of 30 lessons from the NSTA Press book Scientific Argumentation in Biology.  The lesson engages students in an argumentation cycle in which they evaluate three alternative claims regarding where most of the matter that makes up the stem and leaves of a plant comes from.   The lesson engages students by presenting the phenomenon of small sunflower seeds growing into tall flowering plants.  Students are guided to design and carry out an investigation that will allow them to collect evidence needed to construct an argument defending one of the three claims.  As they construct this argument, students build and apply knowledge of photosynthesis and biosynthesis in plants.  This lesson is intended for middle or high school students.  Teachers are encouraged to refer to the preface, introduction, student assessment samples, and appendix provided in the full book for important background on the practice of argumentation and resources for classroom implementation.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • High School
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Available for purchase - The right to view, keep, and/or download material upon payment of a one-time fee.

Performance Expectations

HS-LS2-5 Develop a model to illustrate the role of photosynthesis and cellular respiration in the cycling of carbon among the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere.

Clarification Statement: Examples of models could include simulations and mathematical models.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the specific chemical steps of photosynthesis and respiration.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This lesson can help build a foundation for understanding the carbon cycle, but additional learning experiences will be needed to address the role of cellular respiration and the additional carbon sinks and sources.

HS-LS1-6 Construct and revise an explanation based on evidence for how carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen from sugar molecules may combine with other elements to form amino acids and/or other large carbon-based molecules.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on using evidence from models and simulations to support explanations.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the details of the specific chemical reactions or identification of macromolecules.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This performance expectation is directly addressed in the lesson, although teachers will likely need to push students to reach this depth of understanding. Students could be tempted to stop their explanations at the level of photosynthesis producing sugars. Teachers can push student thinking by questioning students about how these sugars are used to produce the tissues that make up plants.

HS-LS1-5 Use a model to illustrate how photosynthesis transforms light energy into stored chemical energy.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on illustrating inputs and outputs of matter and the transfer and transformation of energy in photosynthesis by plants and other photosynthesizing organisms. Examples of models could include diagrams, chemical equations, and conceptual models

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include specific biochemical steps.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This scenario and investigation could anchor a series of learning experiences that build toward this performance expectation. In order to fully explain how plants convert mass from atmospheric CO2 to sugars, students would need to develop understanding of the energy transformations that occur in the process. This understanding would be enhanced by developing or using models of photosynthesis and biosynthesis.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students use whiteboards, oral presentations, and written reports to communicate and defend the iterations of their arguments and explanations. While not required, students may incorporate graphical models or mathematical analysis into their arguments. Before communicating their arguments, students will also need to obtain and evaluate information from class discussions and other information sources.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
This lesson is centered on argumentation and will engage students in many of the elements of that practice. In particular, this lesson calls on students to evaluate three alternative arguments and to specifically refute one of those in their oral and written argument. Developing a counter argument to refute a claim is a more advanced skill than simply supporting a claim. Therefore, the teacher will need to be prepared to support students in that phase of the lesson. The lesson calls for students to develop and present both oral and written arguments.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
While this lesson focuses on argumentation, it includes a guided-inquiry student investigation in which students collect evidence to support their arguments. Students are provided with a specific set of materials to use during the investigation. Teachers may wish to modify the investigation based on availability of materials or to provide more latitude to students in designing their experiment. Teachers should review the reflection questions listed under “Argumentation Session” to give students guidance on the considerations they will need to make in planning their investigations. Specific guidance for supporting student understanding of experimental design is provided in the teacher notes.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This lesson provides an initial foundation for this disciplinary core idea, but considerable additional instruction will be required for students to develop full understanding of this disciplinary core idea.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The teacher notes discuss the example of cellulose synthesis, and teachers will likely need to push students to connect the sugars made by photosynthesis to the biosynthesis of the more complex molecules that make up plant cells and tissues. The lesson does not include direct student instruction on the concepts of the disciplinary core ideas. Rather, the argumentation cycle provides a context in which students can apply their understanding of these concepts. Students may gain these understandings through prior instruction, instruction embedded within the argumentation cycle, or self-directed research within the argumentation cycle.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Understanding how atmospheric CO2 is converted into the complex molecules that make up plant tissue requires student to apply or develop an understanding that chemical elements can be rearranged to form new products. The teacher notes provide background information on these concepts, but the lesson does not include direct student instruction on the concepts of the disciplinary core ideas. Rather, the argumentation cycle provides a context in which students can apply their understanding of these concepts. Students may gain these understandings through prior instruction, instruction embedded within the argumentation cycle, or self-directed research within the argumentation cycle.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
A full explanation of how plants convert atmospheric CO2 to sugars will require students to understand the changes to matter and energy that occur during photosynthesis. The teacher notes provide background information on these concepts, but the lesson does not include direct student instruction on the concepts of the disciplinary core ideas. Rather, the argumentation cycle provides a context in which students can apply their understanding of these concepts. Students may gain these understandings through prior instruction, instruction embedded within the argumentation cycle, or self-directed research within the argumentation cycle.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The authors cite three crosscutting concepts in the teacher notes, but Energy and Matter offers the most explicit connection to the lesson. The guiding question naturally lends itself to a focus on energy and matter, but the teacher can scaffold student thinking by providing a graphic organizer, like the matter and energy tool in Michigan State University’s Plant Growth and Gas Exchange unit (see page 3 here: http://www.pathwaysproject.kbs.msu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/2012PlantUnit_StudentActivities.pdf). The teacher should also guide students to focus on energy and matter throughout their discussions and writing.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson was designed explicitly to address the three dimensions of the Framework for K-12 Science Education. The lesson engages students in using science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas to develop an explanation to answer the following guiding question: Where does most of the matter that makes up the stem and leaves of a plant come from? The opening scenario presents the phenomenon of sunflower seeds growing into tall adult plants. Time allowing, teachers may want to allow students to observe this phenomenon directly by germinating seeds and growing plants in the classroom. This lesson calls for student to begin with two- to three-week old plants. Teachers are also advised to familiarize themselves with Sampson and Schleigh's argumentation framework, suggested teacher behaviors, and assessment approaches before implementing this lesson in the classroom. The lesson resources do not include instructional materials that directly present the core concepts targeted by the lesson. Rather, the teacher will need to facilitate that learning within the argumentation cycle.

  • Instructional Supports: The growth of plants from seeds will be familiar to many students, but germinating seeds in class and using a plant from students’ local environment might enhance relevance of the phenomenon. The preface, introduction, assessment chapter, and appendix of the full book provide critical instructional support information for teachers who wish to implement this lesson. Successful implementation requires skillful facilitation by the teacher throughout the argumentation cycle. Students and teachers will develop the needed skills over time and with the implementation of multiple argumentation cycles. The book does not provide guidance for teachers to support differentiated instruction.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Constant monitoring and feedback are built into the Sampson and Schleigh's argumentation framework, but they rely on skillful teacher interactions with students. Supportive questioning is critical to student success in this and similar lessons. Teachers should monitor and provide feedback to students as they construct initial arguments, present and critique arguments, and draft final written arguments. Teachers can also model and guide students in providing constructive peer feedback. Teachers should also consider allowing students to revise and improve final written arguments based on teacher and peer feedback. A rubric is provided, along with a sample student response with feedback based on the rubric.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This is not a technology-based lesson. Technology may be incorporated in supporting instruction.