How Plants Make Food- Photosynthesis

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SWBAT explain the process of how plants produce their own food through photosynthesis.

Big Idea

The flow of energy through an ecosystem begins with plants- they are the producers. Every consumer in the ecosystem depends on plants for the energy they need to survive.

Lesson Overview-5 E Lesson Plan

5 minutes

Unit 4: Ecosystems

Lesson 6: How Plants Make Food- Photosynthesis

5E Lesson Planning:

I plan most of my science lessons using the BSCS 5E Lesson Model: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate.For a quick overview of the model, take a look at this video.

I use this lesson model because it peaks the students' interest in the beginning during the "Engage" portion and allows for the students to actively participate in the investigations throughout the subsequent steps. The “Evaluate” component of the 5E Lesson Model can be used in many ways by the teacher and by the students.

A great resource for lesson plan frameworks and explanations is the Community Resources for Science. The 5E Lesson Planning sheet and 5E Lesson Prompts come from this website. 

Unit Overview:

In this Unit students will learn about ecosystems and the transfer of energy through ecosystems. The lessons in the unit are primarily based on our local ecosystem- the Santa Monica Mountains. This area is known as a Mediterranean Ecosystem or Biome and we will learn about the plants, animals, climate, and human impacts on this area. 

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students will use an infographic to learn about photosynthesis as well as learn a song that helps them remember the process.


  • Copy of Photosythesis infographic for each student
  • Pencil 
  • Science Notebooks

Next Generation Science Standards:

The NGSS standards that will be covered in this unit/ lesson are:

5-PS3-1. Use models to describe that energy in animals’ food (used for body repair, growth, motion, and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun.

5-LS1-1. Support an argument that plants get the materials they need for growth chiefly from air and water.

5-LS2-1. Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.

Disciplinary Core Ideas:  This lesson aligns to the Disciplinary Core Ideas of

PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life  The energy released [from] food was once energy from the sun that was captured by plants in the chemical process that forms plant matter (from air and water). (5-PS3-1)

LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms  Food provides animals with the materials they need for body repair and growth and the energy they need to maintain body warmth and for motion. (secondary to 5-PS3-1)  Plants acquire their material for growth chiefly from air and water. (5-LS1-1)

LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems  The food of almost any kind of animal can be traced back to plants. Organisms are related in food webs in which some animals eat plants for food and other animals eat the animals that eat plants. Some organisms, such as fungi and bacteria, break down dead organisms (both plants or plants parts and animals) and therefore operate as “decomposers.” Decomposition eventually restores (recycles) some materials back to the soil. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their particular needs are met. A healthy ecosystem is one in which multiple species of different types are each able to meet their needs in a relatively stable web of life. Newly introduced species can damage the balance of an ecosystem. (5-LS2-1)

LS2.B: Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems  Matter cycles between the air and soil and among plants, animals, and microbes as these organisms live and die. Organisms obtain gases, and water, from the environment, and release waste matter (gas, liquid, or solid) back into the environment. (5-LS2-1)

Crosscutting Concepts:

Systems and System Models  

  • A system can be described in terms of its components and their interactions. (5-LS2- 1)

Energy and Matter  

  • Matter is transported into, out of, and within systems. (5-LS1-1)  

  • Energy can be transferred in various ways and between objects. (5-PS3-1)

Science & Engineering Practices:

Developing and Using Models:

Modeling in 3–5 builds on K–2 experiences and progresses to building and revising simple models and using models to represent events and design solutions.  Use models to describe phenomena. (5-PS3-1)  Develop a model to describe phenomena. (5-LS2-1)

Engaging in Argument from Evidence

Engaging in argument from evidence in 3–5 builds on K– 2 experiences and progresses to critiquing the scientific explanations or solutions proposed by peers by citing relevant evidence about the natural and designed world(s).  Support an argument with evidence, data, or a model. (5-LS1-1)




10 minutes

I start this lesson by asking the students to answer the following question:

What factors are necessary for a plant to grow? 

I tell them to write their answers in their Science Notebooks as well as to draw a diagram of what plants need. Here are a few examples:

Plants Student Notes #3

Plants Student Notes #4

Plants Student Notes #5

Most of my students had a good understanding of what plants need for growth. Most of them mentioned that plants need sunlight, water, nutrients, air, and a few even mentioned that plants needed Carbon Dioxide.


30 minutes

I give each student a copy of the following infographic from Discovery Kids:

Photosynthesis Infographic


I have the students read the infographic with their partner and write down any notes or questions they may have about it. I also show them the following video that is a song about photosynthesis and will help them remember the process.

After watching the video, I give the student the following hand out so that they can create their own diagram of photosynthesis and learn the terms from the infographic.



30 minutes

I give the students some time to finish their own diagrams and have them share and describe their diagrams with a partner. Here are some examples of students' diagrams: