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Spotlight on Photosynthesis

Although photosynthesis is a very complex series of reactions, these resources will shed light on the process in ways that your students will understand.

Illuminating Photosynthesis | PBS Learning Media

Assigning this interactive feature will allow for students to ease into this topic in a way that will keep them from getting overwhelmed with the amount of information they’ll need to know in order to fully understand this process. The site is well scaffolded and will get students acquainted with each part of the process by which plants convert solar energy into chemical energy.

Photosynthesis | PBS Learning Media

Trees, plans, algae, and phytoplankton all do it. Use this video from the NC Science Now series to teach students about photosynthesis, the process that powers the world.

The Photosynthesis Reaction - Advanced | CK-12*

Deepen your students’ understanding of this topic using this reading. It details the chemical reactions that take place during photosynthesis and breaks down each reaction into chemical equations.

Light Reactions | CK-12*

By manipulating a single point in this interactive, students can observe the products of the light reactions of photosynthesis to better understand the first of two stages of photosynthesis.

Nature’s Smallest Factory: The Calvin Cycle | TEDEd

Cathy Symington details the highly efficient second phase of photosynthesis — called the Calvin cycle — which converts carbon dioxide into sugar with some clever mix-and-match math.

Photosynthesis Practice Quiz | Khan Academy

Here are 4 multiple choice questions about photosynthesis so that you can see where your students are at. 

Photosynthesis Quiz | BBC

This assessment is slightly longer with 10 questions that focus on the plant strutures that aid in photosynthesis.

Extension Activity: 100 Great Discoveries | ClassHook

Every scientific discovery is the product a real person’s (or people’s) hard work and curiosity. Bill Nye tells the story of how photosynthesis was discovered by explaining the hypothesis of an experiment that explained how plants generate energy.

Extension Activity: Here's What Photosynthesis Sounds Like Underwater | LiveScience

This article from LiveScience takes the investigation into photosynthesis to new heights…and depths. Invite students to learn about the sweet symphony of photosynthesis and see how over 200 years after the discovery of this process, scientists continue to make new breakthroughs. Please note that this webpage contains ads. If you’d like to share it with your students without ads, we’d suggested creating a document with the text. 

Eboni Hogan

Content Specialist

Eboni has extensive experience in curriculum development, with a focus on culturally-responsive and arts-based approaches. Having spent years creating academic content and providing professional development to teachers, she now curates themed playlists meant to provide educators with valuable, time-saving resources.

Teacher Resource

Blinded By The Light | Smithsonian Science Education Center

Smithsonian’s “Good Thinking!” animated series is a great educational tool for teachers as it explores students’ misconceptions about specific science concepts. This episode provides useful strategies for leading students in an inquiry into photosynthesis. 

Next Generation Science Standards

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

HS-LS1.C.1 The process of photosynthesis converts light energy to stored chemical energy by converting carbon dioxide plus water into sugars plus released oxygen. 


HS-LS2.B.1 Photosynthesis and cellular respiration (including anaerobic processes) provide most of the energy for life processes.

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