Photosynthesis Symphony - Implementing Our Inquiry Labs

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SWBAT implement their student inquiry lab to investigate a question regarding photosynthesis. Students will apply the steps of the scientific method to delve deeper into their understanding of photosynthesis.

Big Idea

Now is your chance to ask your own questions, develop your own inquiry lab, and take control of your learning using plants and your knowledge of photosynthesis. Let the fun begin!

Lesson Introduction: A Three-Week Lesson Overview

2 minutes

This video clip introduces this lesson as it takes the students from learning about the chemical process of photosynthesis to seeing photosynthesis in action with the student-developed inquiry labs.  The students really enjoyed creating their own investigations and observing the process of photosynthesis as they observed their plants over a three week lab period.  

Hook - Modeling Photosynthesis With Music

5 minutes

Students will watch this video to review the steps of photosynthesis.  After the video, students will create a rudimentary model to demonstrate the steps of the chemical reactions that occur as part of photosynthesis.  Students will write a summary paragraph that describes how the chemical reactions that are represented in photosynthesis connect to their inquiry lab that will investigate the rate plant growth.  This prompt will require students to apply their understanding of photosynthesis and apply it to their inquiry experiment that will examine the rate of plant growth based on their identified variable and control groups.

Student Response to Video: Student work samples demonstrate a stronger understanding of photosynthesis compared to early lessons in this unit.  This video does a nice job providing easy to follow graphics and illustrations that support students' learning.



Direct Instruction - Measuring Growth Along With The Melody

10 minutes

This inquiry lab investigation continued for a total of three weeks.  Students were given a day in a prior lesson to complete the following tasks:

  • brainstorm and create their investigative question
  • complete any necessary background research about their selected topic
  • design a step-by-step laboratory procedure

Students completed any necessary work at home, so they were able to arrive in class the next day ready to set-up and implement their inquiry lab.  

Every other day students were given 5 minutes at the start of the class period to attend to their inquiry lab.  Students were encouraged to complete the following:

  • measure their desired volume of water for each of their sample plants (most groups had 3 variable plants and one control plant in their experiment)
  • measure the height of plant growth for each sample plant
  • take detailed observations for each sample plant
  • record any other observations or supporting details for the investigation.

Students recorded their data and observations in their Student Inquiry Lab Record Sheet.

See the section below for samples of Student Work.

Both student work samples demonstrate the need for more teacher oversight on a daily basis.  Instructing the students to "check-in" with their plants, water, measure, and take observations may not have been enough for each lab group.  Please see the Teacher Reflection below to learn more about the need for more teacher oversight!


Guided Practice - Making of a Masterpiece

20 minutes

This section provides photographs that demonstrate this student-inquiry lab as the students brought their learning and the process of photosynthesis to life!

Images That Captured The Spirit Of This Inquiry Lab Experience:

Sample of Group Work Image - it was great seeing groups that are normally not very productive, become inspired by this inquiry project and apply themselves.

Measuring Plant Growth - Students took measurements every other day for three weeks.

Recording Observations Image - Students needed to record their observations and measurements on their student record sheet.

Plants In My Cupboards - Students were able to develop any type of procedure they wanted which resulting in plants in every cupboard of my classroom.

Plants on the Sill - Students were able to develop any type of procedure they wanted which resulting in plants an each of the window sills of my classroom.

Group Measurements - Lab groups held each other accountable to take accurate measurements and detailed observations.

Measuring Volume Of Water - New group leaders emerged as students gained confidence in the science lab.

Gatorade as a Variable - Students thought outside the box and tested different liquids in place of water as their variable group.

Independent Practice: Serenading With Samples of Student Work

10 minutes

Sample of Student work #1 - Students will continue to record observations and measurements every other day for the next three weeks.  These samples of student work demonstrate the collective efforts during the three week inquiry investigation:

Sample of Student Work #2- This student's lab group set themselves up for success by creating a detailed procedure that could be easily replicated by another group!  The students worked diligently each day to gather observations and measurements to ensure a complete set of data.  They included their graph and conclusion statement that explained their analysis of the lab data.  This group is a true example excellence for this project.

Sample of Student Work #3 - This student's lab group was also dedicated to the collection of the data and worked hard each day to complete their observations.  This group developed a detailed procedure but went a step further and created a daily log that recorded their data.  The group discovered that their detailed notes made it easier to analyze the data because they did not have to rely on their memory.  This group went above and beyond and will be used as a shining example for years to come.

Keep in mind that not all groups completed the project to such a high standard.  Some groups, due to the lack of daily micro-managing oversight, drifted in their focused and failed to complete to their daily data collections.  The students' misuse of class time made it almost  impossible to complete a reasonable data analysis and a corresponding conclusion statement. Here is an example of a lab group that submitted a report with Incomplete Data Sample and did not create a graph.  This student work contained a brief procedure, very little observation and data, and no graph to demonstrate their data analysis so in short this lab report Needs More Details Sample.


Smiling Student - Students took pride in their work and the smiles showed it!

Proud of his Work  - More smiles and excitement that the plants were growing!

Close - Reflecting With Rhapsody

10 minutes

As a summative activity for this multi-day inquiry lab, students will be provided the opportunity to reflect on their scientific investigative process by responding to the following prompts.

  1. What was your expectations for this inquiry activity?
  2. How did the inquiry process help you learn more about the process of photosynthesis?
  3. Did you enjoy the opportunity to develop your own lab?  Explain your reasoning.
  4. On a scale of 1-10, assess your level of effort and the level of lab report. Provide a reason/evidence to support your self-assigned grade.
  5. How can this inquiry lab be improved to help facilitate your learning of photosynthesis?

Sample Student Responses- the overwhelming sentiment is that students enjoy inquiry-based experiments that give them the freedom to create their own investigations.  When students own their learning, then they are more invested and interested in the curriculum!


Under the growing lights - As a group, the students were very proud of what they had accomplished!