Cellular Biology: Photosynthesis

Lesson Title: Cellular Biology: Photosynthesis
Academic Standards: HS-LS1-5; HS-LS2-4; HS-PS3-1; HS-PS4-4
Content Creator: Mrs. Wendy Martin
Level: High School
Duration: 35-45 min
  /  Cellular Biology: Photosynthesis


  • Be able to state the structural differences between plant and animal cells.
  • Define autotroph.
  • Define heterotroph.
  • Be able to identify some examples of each.
  • State the two steps of photosynthesis.
  • Know what goes in and out of the light cycle.
  • Know what goes in and out of the Calvin cycle.
  • Understand what the electromagnetic spectrum is.
  • Know what wavelengths of visible light plants use.
  • Define pigment and understand how chlorophyll works.
  • See how C4 and CAM plants use photosynthetic adaptations.


The chloroplast in photosynthetic organisms like plants capture light energy from the sun. They then convert this light energy to chemical energy that is stored in sugar. This process of light conversion is called photosynthesis. This process of photosynthesis nourishes the entire ecosystem either directly or indirectly. In this lesson students will travel inside of a plant cell and see the structural adaptations that allow it to photosynthesize. The class will learn the difference between an autotroph and heterotroph and go on a scavenger hunt to find them. Class will also discuss the two steps of photosynthesis and what goes in and comes out of each step. Class ends with a field trip to a rain forest in Venezuela to scale Angel Falls.


  1. Go on a 360 field trip into a plant cell and discuss the differences between a plant and animal cell. (Link is in ancillary section.)
  2. Move into the Tropical Rainforest location to have class.
  3. Define autotroph and heterotroph.
  4. Have students go on a scavenger hunt. Using the 3D pen tool, have them label heterotrophs H and autotrophs A. (Examples used are in Ancillary Section.)
  5. Discuss students' choices.  Include a fungus because that is a unique example.
  6. Decipher the overall process of photosynthesis and why it is a complementary process to cellular respiration.
  7. Discuss the light cycle. What is needed to fuel it and what products are made?
  8. Then discuss the Calvin cycle. Also discuss what is needed to fuel it and what products are made.
  9. Emphasize the significance of photosynthesis in the ecosystem.
  10. Discuss pigments and the electromagnetic spectrum of radiation.
  11. Explain how plants use the visible light spectrum and emphasize that they do NOT use green wavelengths.  They reflect them.
  12. End class with a virtual field trip to Angel Falls in Venezula. This field trip is available in Engage's 360 room.

Demonstratives & Media

Virtual Field Trips & Lab Demonstrations
Instructional Videos
3D objects

Suggested Ancillary Support

Plant Cell field trip : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmgf0VDDlH8&t=52s   Suggested IFXs for scavenger hunt: Autotrophs are already a part of the rainforest setting but you can add any additional plants or flowers. Heterotrophs: clouded leopard, tiger, rat, birds, python, viper, mushrooms,