Monday, September 19, 2011

Plant Power

Autumn doesn’t officially start until next week, but the signs that the season is imminent are all around us. The nights have become noticeably cooler, and the days shorter. Trees are beginning to change color, and will soon begin shedding their leaves.  For many plants, the lifespan of their hardworking leaves has come to an end; they will soon color, shrivel, and finally die. In some parts of the country, many plants will remain dormant for the winter, and only gradually re-animate in the spring, when they unfurl new leaves.

Leaves are indeed the workhorses of plants. Through the process of photosynthesis, leaves absorb carbon dioxide and sunlight, and convert the sun’s rays into energy in which to make food. Water, of course, is also necessary for photosynthesis to occur, and is absorbed through the plant’s roots. Once energy is created, the plant is able to store reserves in its leaves for future use, and emits oxygen as a waste product. It’s a remarkably efficient process, and vital to the survival of nearly all living things. Animals and humans exhale carbon dioxide, which the plants take in, and in turn emit oxygen for our use. Photosynthesis occurs in some bacteria, algae, and in most plants.

Leaves are, perhaps, the original solar panels. In autumn, the process of photosynthesis slows as the amount of daylight and precipitation declines. Food production wanes, and deciduous trees and other plants will essentially shut down over the winter months until increased sunlight and rainfall in the spring gradually prompt photosynthesis to resume. Fall is a wonderful time to discuss the process by which leaves make energy, and there are lots of materials available for classroom use.  This week’s selected resources on photosynthesis are for a variety of grade levels, and some can be adapted for different ages. I’ll also be featuring several new lessons and resources on photosynthesis daily throughout the week on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so be sure to take a look.

But What IS Photosynthesis?
Subjects: Math, Botany, Biology
Grade: 3-5
In this lesson, students will experience aural, written, reading, and hands-on instruction in learning about photosynthesis. This lesson is a product of the College of Education at Western Michigan University.

Photosynthesis, Trees, and the Greenhouse Effect
Subjects: Geography, Botany, Ecology
Grade: 6-8
In this lesson, students will study photosynthesis and then transfer their understanding of this topic to a consideration of how trees can help reduce the negative impacts of the greenhouse effect. They will read a Web page describing the greenhouse effect, carbon dioxide's role as a greenhouse gas, and the role of humans in exacerbating this effect. This lesson was produced by National Geographic Xpeditions, which offers a plethora of tools, interactive adventures, and ideas relating to geography and the world around us. In addition to lesson plans, the site offers daily global news, maps, interactive games for kids, and more. Lessons are aligned to the U.S. National Geography Standards.

Photosynthesis: Unit Plan
Subjects: Botany, Biology, Ecology
Grade: 9-12
In this series of eight lessons, students will learn about the light reactions of photosynthesis, the physical plant characteristics and their functions, and the role of energy in the metabolic processes in plants. They will also apply their knowledge to the topics of world deforestation and global warming. This lesson was created by Dayna Wilhelm, a graduate student in Education at Virginia Tech.

~Joann's Picks - September 15, 2011~

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