Exploring Energy Transformations in Plants

Contributor
Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center
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

The ability to explain the processes by which plants capture, store and use energy for growth and development is fundamental to understanding bioenergy. In this set of lessons, students investigate how plants harness and use different sources of energy during germination and growth. Students ask questions and make predictions about the sources of energy that plants use. They then plan and carry out investigations using Wisconsin Fast Plants® to collect evidence to test predictions and construct scientific arguments. (from www.glbrc.org)

Intended Audience

Educator
Educational Level
  • Grade 6
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 8
  • Middle School
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

MS-LS1-6 Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of energy into and out of organisms.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on tracing movement of matter and flow of energy.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the biochemical mechanisms of photosynthesis.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The resource is written to be student-centered and allows students to develop and revise their ideas about the flow of energy as a plant completes photosynthesis, with a lesser focus on the cycling of matter. The teacher can choose to add questions that build more conceptual understanding of the cycling of matter or combine this activity with another that focuses more on the matter. It is recommended to complete all aspects of the activity and to formatively assess students regularly in order to know what they need help with. This could be completed through verbal discussions, exit tickets, or responses to a question for reflective homework. The Process Tool that is included allows the students to include a model of their understanding early in the lessons and revise their ideas later in the lessons. The use of actual plants makes the effect of sunlight very clear to students, and allows all students to have a common experience to speak about when they are explaining their understanding.

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
Throughout the sequence of activities, students are developing explanations. The Instructor Lab Guide indicates multiple opportunities to have students discuss and reflect on their findings. It would be helpful to create a summative assessment for the final piece where the student can write a final claim to answer the investigative question that is supported with evidence and reasoning (CER). This could also include a final model showing the inputs and outputs of a plant as it completes photosynthesis.

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

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The Instructor Lab Guide gives alternatives for teachers to either have students develop their own experimental question or for the teacher to supply one for the students to use. The Guide also describes how the teacher can guide the class through development of the investigation. These choices should be made based on the prior experience of the class with developing questions and investigations. Teachers should scaffold this process, as needed. Ultimately, by the end of this grade span, students should be proficient at developing investigative questions and designing an experiment.

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

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The Process Tool that is included in the Instructor Lab Guide gives students an opportunity to model their initial understanding of the inputs/outputs of the plant system. This presents an opportunity for the teacher to see each student’s prior knowledge of photosynthesis. The Process Tool is a form of a model and the students refer back to it after they have carried out their investigation. At this point, the students determine whether the findings from the experiment support or refute their initial ideas.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Although this activity uses Fast Plants, a teacher can use any photosynthetic organism as an example of the process. Since some students are not familiar with algae and/or photosynthetic microorganisms, it would be advantageous to include readings and or videos that illustrate the breadth of organisms that get energy through photosynthesis. The teacher guide provides a number of quality resources for teachers to review the concepts for their own understanding or to enrich the lessons for the students.

Crosscutting Concepts

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students will notice the difference between plants that receive light energy and those that do not. The teacher needs to be sure that students consider what the light energy is doing within the cells of the plant. The Process Tool Model that students create and revise will help them to show the process of photosynthesis using inputs/outputs, even though it is not visible. The resource is primarily focused on the flow of energy as a plant completes photosynthesis, with a lesser focus on the cycling of matter. The teacher can choose to add questions that build more conceptual understanding of the cycling of matter or combine this activity with another that focuses more on the matter. It is recommended to complete all aspects of the activity and to formatively assess students regularly in order to know what they need help with. This could be completed through verbal discussions, exit tickets, or responses to a question for reflective homework.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This resource was written with the three dimensions of NGSS in mind. The resource gives opportunities to have students develop at least three Science and Engineering Practices as well as an understanding of the specific Disciplinary Core Idea and Crosscutting Concept as they investigate the phenomenon of plant growth in light and dark conditions. This can be a completely student-driven activity, an NGSS goal, by providing less instructor support when students are developing the investigative question and experimental design.

  • Instructional Supports: The included resources are very detailed and arranged in a logical manner. The additional resources that are suggested for gathering information are well chosen and work well with this grade level. There is a need for some alternative lessons to allow for differentiation with students of varying abilities or with language barriers.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The resource works to elicit direct, observable evidence of three-dimensional learning and allows students to use practices with core ideas and crosscutting concepts to make sense of phenomena. Although it provides assessment opportunities, it falls a bit short on providing the tools to formatively assess and scoring rubrics to complete the summative assessment.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -