Better Than a Worksheet: Teaching Photosynthesis to 4th and 5th graders

One advantage that homeschool classrooms have over traditional classrooms is freedom of movement and more creative learning opportunities. As much as possible, I incorporate colorful tools and and living examples that reinforce my lessons.  My students and I take lots of field trips and lots of photographs. These hands-on approaches allow students to study key concepts and ideas and actually observe their lessons in action. This lesson is for 4th and and 5th graders.
20150603_105648To begin, I clipped a few stems from an overgrown Pathos plant and allowed each student to propagate his/her own starter. After a about a week they assembled their projects.


Water travels up through roots and stems to the leaves.

20150526_205811Sunlight is absorbed by a green chemical called chlorophyll.

20150526_205823Carbon dioxide from the air diffuses into the leaves through tiny holes.

Chlorophyll converts carbon dioxide with the help of sunlight into glucose and oxygen.


  1. carbon dioxide: a colorless, odorless gas; plants “breathe in” carbon dioxide and “breathe out” oxygen.
  2. chlorophyll: the green pigment found in plants.
  3. diffusion:  the movement of molecules from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration.
  4. oxygen: is a chemical element O; humans breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide.
  5. photosynthesis: is the process by which plants and other things make food. It is a chemical process that uses sunlight to turn carbon dioxide into sugars the cell can use as energy.


  • Plastic or clay pot (we used plastic).
  • Any house plant (we use the Golden Pathos).
  • Plastic folders (yellow, blue, green, orange). In Texas, these folders are $.50 each. I cut them about the size of small index cards. I use these in case they get wet.
  • Permanent markers in various colors.
  • Potting soil.
  • Colored push pins. I used them to secure the attachments. A good glue for plastic works just as well.


  • Use a small portion of the green folder to draw and cut the leaves. Use the black marker to draw the veins.
  • Use a small portion of the blue folder to draw and cut the water waves.
  • Use the yellow folder to draw and cut a small circle for the sun.
  • Use the orange folder to draw and cut the solar flares that will go around the sun.
  • Use a bright yellow strip for the title: Photosynthesis. Wrap and attach at the top of the pot. Secure with yellow push pins or glue.
  • Write each step of the process of photosynthesis on a different cutout card.
  • Use a brown marker to draw the roots.
  • Assemble each card and element or compound in order -beginning with water and ending with “Chlorophyll converts …”

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