Close up of a green leaf

Photosynthesis

Close up of a green leaf

Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis is the energy process for terrestrial and aquatic plants that provide oxygen to the atmosphere, and it drives the carbon cycle. Photosynthesis can be studied using a traditional leaf assay, with investigations of elodea, or with green algae concentrated in sodium alginate beads. This guide breaks down the important information students need to know, provides links to products and free digital resources, and includes suggestions for hands-on labs that reinforce student learning. We’ve gathered a variety of products and resources to help you teach this concept. They include:

The major areas covered in this topic

Photosynthesis with Leaf Disk Assay

Students investigate photosynthesis using a leaf disk assay. In the Guided Investigation, students measure the rate of photosynthesis by counting the number of leaf disks floating at each time. Leaf disks float as oxygen gas is produced during photosynthesis. Students test the effect of using solutions with and without a carbon source. In the Inquiry Investigation, students develop and follow an experimental plan to investigate the effect of a chosen variable on photosynthesis.

747830 Photosynthesis Leaf Disk Assay

Students investigate photosynthesis using a leaf disk assay. In the Guided Investigation, students measure the rate of photosynthesis by counting the number of leaf disks floating at each time. Leaf disks float as oxygen gas is produced during photosynthesis. Students test the effect of using solutions with and without a carbon source. In the Inquiry Investigation, students develop and follow an experimental plan to investigate the effect of a chosen variable on photosynthesis.

Advanced—For experienced high school and college classes; requires some technical skill and background knowledge.

Materials needed to perform a leaf disk assay
744676 Leaf Disk Assay

Students use the floating leaf disk method to study the effects of light intensity and CO2 availability on the rate of photosynthesis. You must supply fresh, green leaves for the activity. Spinach and other fresh, green leafy vegetables or leaves of Wisconsin Fast Plants® are suitable sources.

Advanced—For experienced high school and college classes; requires some technical skill and background knowledge.

Photosynthesis with Elodea

Students carry out activities demonstrating the role of light, chlorophyll, carbon dioxide, and oxygen in photosynthesis. They test leaves of elodea, grown in light and in dark, for the presence of starch. They also collect oxygen produced by photosynthesis and demonstrate the depletion of carbon dioxide from water as photosynthesis occurs.

Materials needed for photosynthesis lab
206000 Carolina BioKits®: Photosynthesis

Students carry out activities demonstrating the role of light, chlorophyll, carbon dioxide, and oxygen in photosynthesis. They test elodea leaves, grown in light and in dark, for the presence of starch. They also collect oxygen produced by photosynthesis and demonstrate the depletion of carbon dioxide from water as photosynthesis occurs. Kit includes a free 1-year subscription to digital resources that support 3-dimensional instruction for NGSS.

Intermediate—Easy to perform; requires some background knowledge.

Aquatic snails crawling on elodea
162101 Elodea

This investigation is a visual way to introduce students to photosynthesis. As Egeria densa uses carbon dioxide from the initial solution, a change in pH occurs, causing a color change in the solution. The change is detectable in as little as 30 minutes to an hour. The investigation may be used as an introductory guided inquiry or a student-led inquiry investigation. In the latter, students devise a way to quantify the CO2 concentration (pH) over a set amount of time.

Intermediate—Easy to perform; requires some background knowledge.

Photosynthesis with Algae Beads

 Brighten your photosynthesis lessons with algae beads. Students can prepare algae beads, observe the products of photosynthesis, and get hands-on experience developing and testing a hypothesis using colored filters, algae beads, and a bicarbonate indicator solution. Algae beads allow for repeated testing over time and provide easy-to-obtain visual data.

Algae beads in a test tube
206100 Algae Bead Photosynthesis Kit

Students learn how to make their own algae beads and get hands-on experience developing a model and testing a hypothesis. They begin by learning about the relationship between wavelength of light and the rate of photosynthesis. From there, student groups form hypotheses about how different-colored light filters affect photosynthesis rate. Finally, they test their hypotheses using colored filters, their algae beads, and a bicarbonate indicator solution.

Beginning—Easy to perform; requires little or no prior knowledge.

Materials needed to perform experiment
747760 Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration with Algae Beads

Explore the processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration and their interrelationship using algae beads. In the Guided Activity, groups of students collaborate to perform an investigation in which they manipulate the transmittance of specific wavelengths of light available to encapsulated algae cells, or “algae beads.” Changes observed within a solution containing algae beads and a colorimetric indicator allow students to indirectly determine the net result of the biochemical processes of algal photosynthesis and cellular respiration within a closed system. In the Inquiry Activity, students formulate and explore an experimental question pertaining to the relative rate of photosynthesis and respiration in algae beads.

Advanced—For experienced high school and college classes; requires some technical skill and background knowledge.

Thin Layer Chromatography with Plant Pigments

Teach your students the fundamentals of thin layer chromatography with this classic experiment in separation science.

Plant pigments are separated in this experiment
688950 Introduction to Thin Layer Chromatography

Teach your students the fundamentals of thin layer chromatography with this classic experiment in separation science. Students separate plant pigments and identify compounds based on Rf values they calculate. 

Advanced—For experienced high school and college classes; requires some technical skill and background knowledge.

Kits That Cover the Topics Above

Plant Pigments and Photosynthesis
747840 Plant Pigments and Photosynthesis

Students explore plant pigments and discover how different factors affect the rate of photosynthesis. In the Guided Investigation, students first use chromatography to separate pigments found in spinach or ivy leaves. Then they use spectrophotometers or colorimeters to measure the percent light transmittance in 3 different treatments of chloroplast suspension—boiled and kept in light, unboiled and kept in light, and boiled and kept in dark. In the Inquiry Investigation, students consider the techniques and findings of the Guided Investigation and design an investigation to further explore photosynthetic pigments or the light reactions of photosynthesis.

Advanced—For experienced high school and college classes; requires some technical skill and background knowledge.

Aquariums and other materials needed to perform this activitiy
746470 Plant Pigments and Photosynthesis Kit

This kit comes with premixed chromatography solution and DPIP already in solution. Teacher instructions and reproducible student sheets are also included. 

Advanced—For experienced high school and college classes; requires some technical skill and background knowledge.

Modeling Photosynthesis
746478 Modeling Photosynthesis: The Calvin Cycle Kit

Working in groups, students use molecular models to explore the reduction of carbon dioxide to various organic molecules, which occurs during the Calvin cycle. Each group models a different reaction in the cycle and determines what is released and/or consumed during the reaction. This helps students understand concepts that are central to photosynthesis and how those concepts apply to the reaction they model. After completing the model-building activity, the groups then present their reaction to the class so everyone understands the process by which plant cells store chemical energy as organic molecules.

Advanced—For experienced high school and college classes; requires some technical skill and background knowledge.

Photosynthesis Models

Carolina has a variety of high-quality models to fit your needs. Check out our selection of leaf, chloroplast, and plant cell models.

Additional Photosynthesis Products

Carolina has additional products to supplement your photosynthesis lessons.

Additional Photosynthesis Support

We have free resources to help you teach this concept, including:

  • Free Activities and Infographics
  • How-to Videos
  • Helpful Buying Guides

Free Photosynthesis Resources

Use these free resources to supplement your instruction about photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis Videos

Looking for some support for your photosynthesis labs? These videos can help.

For More Guidance

These are our top picks. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, we’ll be happy to help you find the right activities and kits to simplify your planning and implementation. If you have questions, please contact us at product@carolina.com.

nerve cell

Cell Structure and Function

Carolina has everything you need to teach cell structure and function. Cells are the building blocks of all organisms. The properties, organelles, and characteristics of a cell determine its role within the organism. Understanding the relationship between the cell’s structure and its function is an important topic in any biology course.

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