Do Plants Need Sunlight?

Jeannine LaSovage,
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan
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.



Students will explore the importance sunlight for a plant's survival by conducting an investigation. Each group of students will cover parts of plants' leaves with black construction paper and make observations of the plant’s leaves over several days. This lesson serves to model the process of investigation. The investigation will take 7 days to complete. Then students can remove the black paper, place the plants back in the sunlight, and view the leaves in a second investigation. (Chlorophyll is not a necessary concept/vocabulary term to address in this lesson.)

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 2
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

2-LS2-1 Plan and conduct an investigation to determine if plants need sunlight and water to grow.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to testing one variable at a time.

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
To fully address the Performance Expectation, two different investigations will need to be conducted for students to see that plants need both sunlight and water to survive. This resource addresses the plant’s need for sunlight. This lesson was not designed for the students to plan the investigation. Teacher guidance could assist students

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 will observe plants over time to learn the importance of systematically collecting data. The nature of the investigation provides opportunities for students to generate questions, diagrams, written observations, claims, and evidence. Students can conduct another investigation by removing the black paper and placing the plants in the sunlight again to compare the results to the first investigation.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Through the investigation, observations, and data collection, the student will be able to determine that sunlight is needed for the plant’s growth. This resource does not support students learning that plants need water.

Crosscutting Concepts

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students drawings and written observations provide them with evidence of the changes in the plant’s growth. Students will also see that the leaves play a vital part in the plant’s survival. By covering the leaves with the black paper, students will later observe the changes in the leaves (simple tests). After students have finished their investigation and reached a conclusion, the teacher instructs the students to look back on the process of conducting an investigation. The students discuss how it helped them answer their question.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The resource lends itself well to the practice of carrying out a simple investigation as students investigate the question and disciplinary core idea of whether plants need sunlight. Observations by the students will assist the students in answering the question. Classroom discussions encourage students to answer the questions and gather evidence to support or refute student ideas about causes.

  • Instructional Supports: This resource has been given a limited rating. It develops deeper understanding of the Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts by identifying and building on students’ prior plant growth knowledge.The investigation provides opportunities for students to observe, discuss, and question whether plants need sunlight to grow. Students will be making observations and comparisons, communicating findings, making inferences, and drawing conclusions. However, no suggestions are provided for differentiated instruction or for students to create their own problem/solution.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The resource does not provide any means of monitoring student progress. Student progress and/ or misconceptions could be assessed through the student’s written responses/observations, oral responses, and drawings. No formal assessment or rubric is included.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: Video recordings could be made and shared of the students’ findings based on the observations, investigations, claims, and evidence.