• Back
  • Middle School

    From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

Students who demonstrate understanding can:

Performance Expectations

  1. 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. MS-LS1-6

    Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary

A Peformance Expectation (PE) is what a student should be able to do to show mastery of a concept. Some PEs include a Clarification Statement and/or an Assessment Boundary. These can be found by clicking the PE for "More Info." By hovering over a PE, its corresponding pieces from the Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts will be highlighted.

By clicking on a specific Science and Engineering Practice, Disciplinary Core Idea, or Crosscutting Concept, you can find out more information on it. By hovering over one you can find its corresponding elements in the PEs.

Planning Curriculum

Common Core State Standards Connections

ELA/Literacy

  • RST.6-8.1 - Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts. (MS-LS1-6)
  • RST.6-8.2 - Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions. (MS-LS1-6)
  • WHST.6-8.2 - Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes. (MS-LS1-6)
  • WHST.6-8.9 - Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis reflection, and research. (MS-LS1-6)

Mathematics

  • 6.EE.C.9 - Use variables to represent two quantities in a real-world problem that change in relationship to one another; write an equation to express one quantity, thought of as the dependent variable, in terms of the other quantity, thought of as the independent variable. Analyze the relationship between the dependent and independent variables using graphs and tables, and relate these to the equation. (MS-LS1-6)

Model Course Mapping

First Time Visitors

Resources & Lesson Plans

  • More resources added each week!
    A team of teacher curators is working to find, review, and vet online resources that support the standards. Check back often, as NSTA continues to add more targeted resources.
  • This lesson is a collaboration between the Lego Group and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Edgerton Center. The LEGO bricks provide kinesthetic experiences for students to model the process of photosynthesis. The phenomenon of this lesson is ...

  • This two and a half minute video from the California Academy of Sciences shows seasonal variation in primary productivity, both on land and in the ocean, as seen from space. The visualization is based on empirical scientific data collected over time. ...

  • The Web-based Science Inquiry Environment (or WISE) website is a joint project of UC at Berkeley and three other science research organizations. This WISE interactive simulation allows students to explore the process of photosynthesis and cellular re ...

  •   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 make ...

  • 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 ener ...

  •    The Plants unit (approximately 16 hours of instructional time), part of the Carbon TIME curriculum, builds on student learning about organic and inorganic materials in the Systems and Scale unit as well as the processes learned in t ...

  • The WISEngineering hydroponics project aims to help students develop their understanding of photosynthesis and cellular respiration. WISEngineering is a free online, engineering-design learning environment that scaffolds engineering design by guiding ...

  • This data analysis activity includes all supporting materials including color photos of leaf sets that can be analyzed by students.  The leaf sets show the results (including controls) of what happens to ivy leaves under a variety of conditions, ...

  • Students design and conduct simple experiments using elodea (aquatic plant sold in pet stores) and Bromthymol blue to determine whether plants consume or release carbon dioxide in the process of photosynthesis. Students will record their data which w ...

  • Do you have a great resource to share with the community? Click here.
  • In this series of games, your students will learn how plants convert energy to nourish themselves. The Photosynthesis learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — delivers improved student engagement and academic performance in your class...

  • In this series of games, your students will learn about the components and results of photosynthesis. The Chemical Reactions in Photosynthesis learning objective — based on NGSS and state standards — delivers improved student engagement and academic ...

  • From TeachEngineering - In this activity, students examine how to grow plants the most efficiently. They imagine that they are designing a biofuels production facility and need to know how to efficiently grow plants to use in this facility. As a mean...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students are presented with a guide to rain garden construction in an activity that culminates the unit and pulls together what they have learned and prepared in materials during the three previous associated activities. They ...

  • In this experiment, students observe a natural process that removes carbon dioxide (CO2) from Earth's atmosphere. This process is a part of the carbon cycle and results in temperature suitable for life. Students learn that the carbon cycle is a fund...

  • Two simple experiments/demonstrations show the role of plants in mitigating the acidification caused when CO2 is dissolved in water.

  • A sequence of five short animated videos that explain the properties of carbon in relationship to global warming, narrated by Robert Krulwich from NPR.

  • This video follows biologist Gretchen Hofmann as she studies the effects of ocean acidification on sea urchin larvae.

  • This video focuses on the conifer forest in Alaska to explore the carbon cycle and how the forest responds to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide. Topics addressed in the video include wildfires, reflectivity, and the role of permafrost in the global c...

  • This figure, the famous Keeling Curve, shows the history of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations as directly measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. This curve is an essential piece of evidence that shows the increased greenhouse gases that cause recent ...

  • This interactive animation focuses on the carbon cycle and includes embedded videos and captioned images to provide greater clarification and detail of the cycle than would be available by a single static visual alone.

  • This NASA video explores the relationship between climate and agriculture. The video discusses the variability of climate impacts in different regions, as well as the effects of population growth and higher demands for food in areas that already str...

  • This video segment from 'Earth: The Operators' Manual' explores how we know that today’s increased levels of CO2 are caused by humans burning fossil fuels and not by some natural process, such as volcanic out-gassing. Climate scientist Richard Alle...

  • This NASA animation shows the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide over different time scales. Viewers can compare the last 400,000 years, last 1000 years, and last 25 years. The data come from the Lake Vostok ice cores (400,000 BC to about 4000 BC)...

  • This video introduces phytoplankton - the base of the marine food web, the source of half of the oxygen on Earth, and an important remover of CO2 from the atmosphere. The video also explains how satellites are used to monitor phytoplankton and how wa...

  • This animated slideshow introduces biodiesel as a fuel alternative. With concern about the use of petroleum-based fuels at an all-time high, biodiesel is experiencing a popularity surge. And algae—otherwise known to some as pond scum— are grabbin...

  • This video segment from the Earth Operators Manual summarizes how fossil fuels are made, provides a comparison of how long it takes to store energy in coal, oil and natural gas, and discusses how fast we're using them.

  • This video describes the foundation Plant for the Planet, a foundation created by a 9-year-old German boy, Felix. This foundation has planted more than 500,000 trees in Germany, which he says help sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions...

  • In this activity, students learn how carbon cycles through the Earth system by playing an online game.

  • This interactive follows carbon as it moves through various components of the carbon cycle.

  • This interactive graphic shows the different components of the ocean biological pump, i.e., how carbon in the form of either plankton or particles moves into the ocean's depths. The diagram illustrates the processes at the surface, 0-100 meters, 1...

  • In this video a scientist explains how DNA extracted from ancient tree remains provides insights about how trees/plants have adapted, over time, to changes in CO2 in the atmosphere. Her lab research investigates changes in plant genotypes under expe...

  • This narrated slide presentation shows the carbon cycle. It looks at various parts of this biogeochemical sequence by examining carbon reservoirs and how carbon is exchanged among them.

  • This video describes the work of scientists who are studying the precise combination of trees that would be most effective in reducing the level of greenhouse gases in the air around Syracuse, NY. This is a pilot study that will serve as a model for ...

  • In this video from the Polaris Project Website, American and Siberian university students describe their research on permafrost.

  • In this video segment, two students discuss the greenhouse effect and visit with research scientists at Biosphere 2 in Arizona, who research the effects of global climate change on organisms in a controlled facility. Their current research (as of 200...

  • This video segment demonstrates carbon dioxide's role in the greenhouse effect and explains how increasing concentrations of C02 in the atmosphere may be contributing to global warming. Video includes an unusual demonstration of C02's heat-absorbing ...

  • In this video, adapted from KUAC-TV and the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, viewers learn how one-celled organisms in permafrost may be contributing to greenhouse gas levels and global warming.

  • This interactive exposes students to Earth's atmospheric gases of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and ozone. As the user manipulates the interactive to increase or decrease the concentration of each gas, explanations and images are provided that explain and ...

  • This video features the Prairie Heating and CO2 Enrichment Experiment near Cheyenne WY, where scientists expose mixed-grass prairie to higher temperatures and CO2 concentrations to study impacts on the prairie for late in this century.

  • This carbon calculator, developed by the EPA, guides students in calculating their carbon footprint and then using that information to make decisions about how to reduce their carbon emissions.

  • This article and slide show from the New York Times, features several scientists from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, who study the effects of thawing permafrost in Alaska.

  • This is a series of 5 guided-inquiry activities that examine data and models that climate scientists use to attempt to answer the question of Earth's future climate.

  • In this activity, students conduct a life cycle assessment of energy used and produced in ethanol production, and a life cycle assessment of carbon dioxide used and produced in ethanol production.

  • This video highlights the work of climate scientists in the Amazon who research the relationship between deforestation, construction of new dams, and increased amounts of greenhouse gases being exchanged between the biosphere and the atmosphere.

  • This video illustrates how one community developed and implemented a sustainable solution to help keep stream water cool enough for healthy fish. Their solution has the added benefit of removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

  • In this activity, students use a physical model to learn the basics of photosynthesis and respiration within the carbon cycle.

  • This short video is an excerpt from the longer video Acid Test: The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification, produced by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). This short version summarizes the science of ocean acidification as well as the so...

  • In this activity, students explore the basic living requirements of algae (phytoplankton)through hands-on experience and an interactive game. Students investigate what algal biofuels are, how they are made, where they can grow, and, most importantly,...

  • This animated video outlines Earth's energy. The video presents a progression from identifying the different energy systems to the differences between external and internal energy sources and how that energy is cycled and used.

  • Two short, narrated animations about carbon dioxide and Earth's temperature are presented on this webpage. The first animation shows the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels, human carbon emissions, and global temperature rise of the past 1,000 years; the ...

  • Interactive visualization that provides a basic overview of the Earth's carbon reservoirs and amount of carbon stored in each, CO2 transport among atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, and biosphere, and a graph comparing global temp (deg C) and atmos...

  • This high-resolution narrated video shows levels and movements of CO2 globally through the course of a year.

  • This narrated animation displays three separate graphs of carbon emissions by humans, atmospheric concentrations of CO2, and average global temperature as it has changed over the last 1000 years. The final slide overlays the three graphs to show how...

  • A phenomenon-based unit driven by student questions about Earth and space that builds toward MS-ESS1-1, MS-ESS1-2, MS-ESS1-3, and MS-PS2-4. This Google folder contains all documents needed for this 5 week unit. This unit has been submitted to Achie...

  • From TeachEngineering - Students learn a simple technique for quantifying the amount of photosynthesis that occurs in a given period of time, using a common water plant (Elodea). They use this technique to compare the amounts of photosynthesis that o...

Planning Curriculum gives connections to other areas of study for easier curriculum creation.