Photosynthesis & Cellular Respiration

Contributor
Eliane Wiese
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Interactive Simulation
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 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 respiration at the macroscopic and microscopic level through interactive simulations. It has a storyline that helps students make sense of the phenomenon of photosynthesis using the following guiding prompts:, “How do plants use energy from light?”, “How could growing plants on the roof reduce the need for AC (and save energy)?”, and “How does energy from the sun help animals to survive?”. Students learn about energy transformation through simulations and modeling.  

Teaching with WISE” provides a good overview on how to use WISE simulations.

Wise Quickstart Guide: Teachers” provides technological requirements to run the simulations  

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • 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
This resource allows students to use computer models to construct an explanation of photosynthesis. The interactive models allow students to identify the energy and matter inputs and outputs as they enter and leave a plant. It is presented at the appropriate level: it addresses conservation of matter during chemical reactions and incorporates cellular structures (e.g. stomata and chloroplasts), but does not include light-dependent and light-independent reactions. This learning experience could be enhanced by providing hands-on investigations that allow students to engage in arguments based on the evidence they collect during the investigations.

MS-LS1-7 Develop a model to describe how food is rearranged through chemical reactions forming new molecules that support growth and/or release energy as this matter moves through an organism.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on describing that molecules are broken apart and put back together and that in this process, energy is released.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include details of the chemical reactions for photosynthesis or 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 resource allows students to observe a simulated model that shows how cellular respiration takes place in the mitochondria. The students also analyze mathematical representations to understand how glucose molecules are used for growth in a light vs. no light setting. If this resource is used as an introduction to this learning sequence, additional hands-on investigations or activities are needed for middle school students to grasp the concept (e.g., using Lego™ blocks to show how food molecules are rearranged to form new molecules).

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
In this lesson, students have opportunities to use a pre-existing model, develop, and revise a simple model based on information from the simulation. Students are given most of the information through a series of tutorials. The model that students develop is based on the information provided. Students have limited opportunities to collect direct evidence themselves. Students may benefit from additional learning activities in which they plan investigations and collect and analyze the data. This would strengthen the evidence-based components of the activities, as the model and explanation could be based on student-generated data.

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

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
At the beginning of the simulation, students make predictions on how plants obtain energy to live and how a green roof saves energy. As they progress through the tutorial, they have opportunities to revise their thinking and use models to construct an explanation of energy transformation during photosynthesis.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The guiding questions built into the simulation are designed to help students examine the input and output of energy during photosynthesis. The models allow students to observe how water and carbon dioxide are rearranged during photosynthesis to form oxygen and glucose.

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Step 2 “How does energy change?” helps scaffold the idea that photosynthesis is a chemical reaction. The animation shows that atoms are rearranged during the chemical reaction and how light energy is transformed into chemical energy. For students to have a rigorous depth of understanding of this concept, this resource should be part of an extended learning sequence.

Crosscutting Concepts

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The transformation of energy is a major target of this lesson. Students develop a model by using arrows to show the type of energy and matter that enters and leaves a plant. One clarification teachers need to make is to explain that chemical energy is specifically stored in the chemical bonds of the glucose molecule. The simulation only states that chemical energy is stored inside glucose.

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The model shows that matter is conserved during photosynthesis and cellular respiration as the number of atoms stays the same before and after the reaction. It would be helpful for students to see this at the macroscopic level such as weighing the mass of matter in a closed system as it undergoes chemical reaction.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson was designed to integrate multiple elements of SEPs, DCIs, and CCCs to help students make sense of the phenomenon of photosynthesis. There are several guiding prompts: “How do plants store energy from light?”, How could growing plants on the roof reduce the need for AC?”, “How does energy from the sun help animals to survive?” The questions surrounding the phenomena are not generated by the students. Teachers may want the students to answer the driving question again after completing the lesson and ask students to provide evidence from the simulation. Teachers could also have a “Driving Question Board” on which students could be encouraged to post additional questions as they explore the simulation to make the learning experience more relevant to the students. The questions could then be subsequently addressed through discussions or hands-on investigations.

  • Instructional Supports: The simulation directly engages students in using a model and constructing an explanation by providing background information. The students work at their own pace by going through each step which may be good for differentiation. The lesson builds progression in all three dimensions as it elicits students’ prior knowledge of energy transformations and plant growth. Students have opportunities to predict and revise their thinking as they progress through each tutorial/step. Sentence starters are embedded in some open response questions to provide additional support to students. Some differentiation is included when the system assigns a certain branch path based on students’ responses (such as in steps 2.2, 3.1, and 4.5). More differentiation could be provided, especially for high achieving students, by having students conduct open inquiry investigations, such as the Leaf Photosynthesis NetLogo Model (https://concord.org/stem-resources/leaf-photosynthesis). Students can investigate factors that affect the rate of photosynthesis such light intensity, carbon dioxide concentration, and water availability.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Students are required to create an account so their work can be saved. This also allows the teacher to monitor student work in real time. Student predictions at the beginning of each activity can reveal their misconceptions to teachers. There are a variety of assessment types, including multiple choice, open response, and drag-and-drop items. Some of the multiple-choice questions offer immediate feedback to encourage students to self-monitor their progress and check for understanding before moving on. Teachers can see from their account the questions that are most missed or the steps that take the longest for students to complete. For some open responses, such as writing an energy story, the computer provides immediate feedback for students to revise. However, the computer feedback is limited, and there is no scoring guide provided for open responses. Since the students work at their own pace, there is limited peer interaction unless they choose to work in pairs. Teachers are encouraged to pause student computers for group discussions when misconceptions arise or persist.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: Students interact with the simulations via different types of question (open responses, drag and drop, multiple choice, fill in the blank). All the interactive elements are directly related to the learning and the platform is easy to use. The students can work at their own pace. However, the simulation does not create an individualized learning experience that allows flexibility.