Cell Theory and Plant Respiration

Shine some light onto photosynthesis with an experiment about cellular respiration. Drawing from the experiences of various scientific careers, high schoolers place four leaves into test tubes with phenol red, and place them in different degrees of sunlight to observe how much plants need sun exposure.

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Instructional Ideas

  • Integrate into a science careers unit in which learners perform the experiment from the perspective of a forester, horticultural farmer, agricultural farmer, or botanist
  • Assign careers to lab groups for them to conduct experiment before, during, and after the lab
Classroom Considerations

  • Aligned to North Carolina standards, but applicable to science standards in any state
  • Requires phenol red for the experiment; provides separate instructions for using concentrated liquid or solid powdered form
  • Project the table onto the board for learner to copy into their science journals
  • Lab takes one class period, with observations throughout the following week
  • Each person, pair, or group will need four test tubes for the experiment

  • Provides extension links and materials for a career research activity
  • A hands-on demonstration of photosynthesis
  • Follow up activity prompts learners to write a letter to their local horticultural society or 4H club, making it a great opportunity for an interdisciplinary assignment with language arts

  • None