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Photosynthesis Web Resources
Larry Orr (ASU) and Govindjee (UIUC)

Educational Sites for Educators and Students

Of course, all of the Web sites discussed thus far can be used for educational purposes, but there are some that are primarily aimed towards students and educators. Also included is a list of sites that contain science experiments involving photosynthesis. Some books that may be useful are listed in the section on books and journals.

We feel that it is important that all students (and their teachers) be aware of the complexity of the Internet and the Web pages that appear there. Perhaps one of the best tutorials on this is from the University of California, Berkeley ( It is a very detailed article that helps users analyze Web pages and help determine which ones are more valid than others. It is a very important site!

A. Educational Sites

One of the best sites is the ASU Center for Bioenergy and Photosynthesis. It contains an entire educational area for information about photosynthesis ranked by appropriate age groups ( This site is maintained by one of us (LO) and is currently undergoing revision.

A project by one of the authors (G) lists photosynthesis educational links at different levels (


Fig. 14: The Khan Academy is pioneering online teaching. Pictured here is the start of lesson on “Photosynthesis” ( that will give the essentials in a friendly teacher-to-student format, much as done on an old-fashioned chalkboard. The student can replay any parts that are not understood upon first viewing. Teachers are able to track student progress and intervene if necessary.

The Kahn Academy has posted a series of educational videos related to photosynthesis. See Fig. 14 for an example of a course. Mentioned earlier in the “Subject sites” section, they are repeated here:


Photosynthesis: Light Reactions 1:;

Photosynthesis: Light Reactions and Photophosphorylation:;

Photosynthesis: Calvin-Benson Cycle:;


C-4 Photosynthesis:;

CAM Plants:

The Kahn Academy videos are also available on YouTube and are often embedded in other Web sites, a practice encouraged by the creator, Salman Khan.

Photosynthesis is used as an example in teaching science as a language. This article from Stanford News Service explains how teaching concepts using everyday words and then introducing complex terms such as "photosynthesis" may speed learning in some groups:

Science and Plants for Schools (SAPS) ( presents information for students regarding the importance of plants in the world. It is sponsored by the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, the University of Cambridge and others. It contains many items regarding photosynthesis and numerous outside links to experiments for students, including videos. It also includes “Photosynthesis – A Survival Guide for Teachers” ( with many useful Powerpoint modules.

Flying has a very good page that explains photosynthesis in a creative and easily understood manner. The entire site is quite humorous and we recommend it highly (

Devens Gust at ASU has written an important essay, “Why Study Photosynthesis,” which instead of explaining the workings of photosynthesis, tells why it is so important to the world. He shows how students can use photosynthesis as a means to learn about many areas that may not seem to be linked to photosynthesis (

Newton’s Apple, a show that originally appeared on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), has now moved to Twin Cities Public Television and has a good introduction to photosynthesis to young readers ( and even the entire video from the original show (

Science Made Simple, a service available by subscription, has many items of interest to teachers, including the very popular “Why Do Leaves Change Color in the Fall?” which is available as a free sample on their Web site ( is a reliable collection of news sites about Climate Change and Global Warming, titled "53 Sources for Climate Change News".  If you or your students are interested in what climate change is doing to our planet or how it will impact our future, these resources can help your class approach the subject from an informed perspective and provide research sources for their inquiry.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration of the Department of Energy is responsible for “Energy Kids” ( It contains good introductions to many solar energy subjects such as biomass, biofuels, hydrogen and non-biological energy. It also has links to games, calculators, puzzles. This is an excellent site for students and teachers to roam around in and has a number of solar energy lesson plans for teachers.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers free courses in photosynthesis. “Photosynthesis: Life from Light,” ( is an undergraduate-level course. The site links to all the necessary course materials, some of which are available directly online and PDFs that must be downloaded. Videos are available as iTunes links or YouTube videos. Note that the course is for personal education and review, no course credit is granted.

MIT also offeres a link to MITnews arranged by subject matter. Here is the link to the section on photosynthesis:

For fun, we recommend the Z-Scheme videos by the Ohio State Football team. There are 2 versions: (A) is at is version A; and B is at

B. Lesson Plans

Lesson plans posted at various schools often disappear at the end of the academic year. Please let Larry Orr ( know if any lesson plan links are broken, moved, or if you know of any that are not listed. At the present time we are listing only free online lesson plans. There are many commercial educational companies offering high-quality lesson plans and materials, but they are beyond the scope of this paper.

“Photosynthesis” by Kelly Roe and Maureen Quessenberry can be found at The lesson plan is intended for middle school students and includes links to PowerPoint notes. The activities are planned for 55 min. periods over three day.

“Fun Photosynthesis” ( ) by Stephanie Callaway is a lesson plan that involves middle school students performing skits in which they learn about photosynthesis and act out the process using homemade props. This activity takes about 6 days and includes links to necessary materials and assessment files.

“Purification v. Population: Green v. Gray The Plant Kingdom’s Impact on Air,” by Maureen Taylor-French, Quality, Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute (

“How Do Plants Get Energy?” from Teacher’s Domain and WGBH ( contains links to NOVA movies and other resources. Free registration is required.

“Carbon: Is Too Much Of A Good Thing Bad?” by George Y. Durrett (grades 6-8) (

“Do Plants Need Sunlight?” from Reach Out, (grades 1-6) (

Nelida Boreale provides a lesson plan for “Photosynthesis and Transpiration” for grades 6–8 (

National Geographic Xpeditions presents: “Photosynthesis, Trees, and the Greenhouse Effect” (

Discovery Education features: “Yummy Plant Parts,” a lesson plan that helps students understand plants and why they are important (

From Wales, UK: “Plants need light and water to grow.” ( Contains easy interactive lessons, teachers’ notes, and links to worksheets in MS Word format.

As mentioned previously, “Energy Kids” has a number of solar energy lesson plans organized by age groups (primary, elementary, intermediate and secondary) lists a number of brief suggestions to aid in teaching elementary school students about photosynthesis (

C. Experiments on the Web
There are many Web sites detailing experiments that can be carried out in the classroom to show various aspects of photosynthesis. Some of the sites offer very simple experiments, while others are somewhat more involved.

Julian Rubin has posted links to several of the historic experiments in “The Discovery of Photosynthesis” ( ). He has also posted links to sites with possible science fair projects, organized by age group! ( )

Science and Plants for Schools (SAPS) has a good experiment with a slide show for investigating photosynthesis using algal balls (

Other experiments of note are: “Investigating photosynthesis with leaf discs (; “Measuring the rate of photosynthesis ( A photosynthesis kit can also be ordered (

The Russian space station Mir may be gone, but NASA has posted “Activity #1 Shuttle/Mir Seed Germination Activity” that explores hydroponics, photosynthesis and seed germination (, duplicating some of the experiments done on Mir.

Richard G. Steane has a number of experiments involving starch and Geraniums at the Web site for “Experiments to Show the Factors Required in Photosynthesis (2) – Light and Carbon Dioxide” ( The same site has a section with experiments on “Chlorophyll” in the plant Zebrina (

C. Ford Morishita has a Web site involving starch pictures on leaves, “Photosynthetic Pictures Are Worth More Than a Thousand Words” (

A high school level lab on “Photosynthesis, Respiration, and the ATP-ADP Cycle” has been written by Clovis O. Price Jr. ( in which beans are used to represent the various atoms involved in the photosynthesis process and are pasted on posters. Models are to be made using carved sponges. Finally, students are to use tennis balls to demonstrate the ATP-ADP cycle.

Access Excellence has a couple of interesting experiments using Elodea and other organisms. James Linhares offers “A Constructivist Version of the Snail & Elodea Lab”, ( A similar lab has been written by Bob Culler, “Mussel Your Way Through Photosynthesis”, which uses zebra mussels and Elodea in a project suitable for grades 9 and 10 (

There are several other sites with lab experiments that use the common aquarium plant Elodea. A lesson has been written by Karen F. Adams of Burnside Scholastic Academy in Chicago (; it involves counting bubbles of gas given off by Elodea.

“Photosynthesis and Chromatography of Its Pigments” ( is a relatively simple experiment involving paper chromatography.

Dr. Splicer

Fig. 15. Dr. Splicer prepares a virtual experiment at

Neal Woodbury from ASU has set up a “Virtual Experiment” which uses mutant bacteria to discover which proteins are necessary for photosynthesis (Fig. 15). A virtual experiment is one in which the student follows a lab procedure on the computer screen rather than in a wet lab; you juggle genes!. Just like in the lab, the student has to correctly perform the parts of the experiment or it fails (

Inexpensive kits that contain the algae required for the experiments can be purchased from Duke University via the Chlamydomonas Center (

A few videos of experiments are beginning to appear, though the quality is typically not very good. We hope that as more teachers become comfortable with video cameras and the Web they will post better experiments.

Video: “Photosynthesis Syringe Experiment Year 8” shows oxygen production from discs cut from spinach leaves ( (you might want to turn off the distracting soundtrack!).

Video: “Photosynthesis Under Water” ( shows oxygen production controlled by light.

D. Knowledge/Search Sites, Student and Classroom Videos/Social Networks

Knowledge/Search Sites are ever expanding sites dedicated to finding and publishing information about everything, not single subjects. They can be thought of online encyclopedias or a rudimentary Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia ( is a great, and controversial, experiment in the communal creation and editing of a public reference source. It is now huge and is a major information source for students, teachers and the general public – even scientists! Its strengths are: it covers everything, especially modern cultural matters, but is also quite good at science and historical material in many areas; it is available in almost all modern languages. Its weaknesses are: lightness in the coverage of some areas; errors that are introduced by the public editors; bias in some of the articles; occasional hacks and deliberate misinformation being introduced temporarily until removed by others. On the whole it is a good source of information as long as the user is aware of its strengths and weaknesses. Both of the authors of this paper have participated in its creation and editing although others have often changed our entries, sometimes leading to frustration. Some good areas to check: [a hotspot for editorial controversies and discussion]

eHow ( advertises “How to do just about everything.” It hires guest writers and videographers to provide answers to questions that it believes the public will ask. The answers are often interesting, if not very detailed, and may contain videos and links to other resources or references. Conversely, many of the presentations are quite elementary and would only be suitable for beginners. For example here are some photosynthesis related links from eHow:

“How Does Photosynthesis Work?”

“How to Explain Photosynthesis”

“What is the Function of Photosynthesis?” A video:

“What is the Function of Chlorophyll?” A video:

Student and Classroom videos can be found in many places on the Internet. The development of very inexpensive and small video cameras, including those built into cell phones and laptop computers have resulted in an explosion of non-professional videos on every imaginable subject. It did not take long before sites appeared to store and distribute the videos.

YouTube ( is by far the most famous of these sites. Throughout this review we have listed YouTube videos for individual subjects. YouTube allows the public to post comments to the videos and some of these may not be appropriate to all age groups. However, if monitored carefully, some YouTube videos may be helpful in teaching. Also, students can do their own video projects about their research and post these very easily to YouTube. Here are some videos about photosynthesis that are not listed elsewhere in this article. They may be fun to show students or possibly serve as inspiration to come up with similar (hopefully better) student projects.

“Glucose Song” ( cute figures and clever lyrics.

“The Photosynthesis Song by Peter Weatherall ( with nice animations. Peter Weatherall is an independent children’s musician and animator who produces many CDs and DVDs filled with wonderful songs and cartoons about science. We recommend checking out his site for classroom ideas:

Another “Photosynthesis Song” sung by Mr. Durand, a teacher (

“Photosynthesis Rap” ( lacks production values but may get some classes involved.

“Cellular Respiration (ATP) – Boulevard of Broken Dreams” ( features bad singing (apologies to Green Day) with visual puns.

There are hundreds of similar presentations on YouTube and more being added all the time. To find others go to YouTube and enter your search in the search box.

TeacherTube is a lot like YouTube except it is run by an educational group and does not allow public postings or comments. Many schools have blocked YouTube, but allow TeacherTube. In general the videos are more limited, but of higher quality.

“Photosynthesis” ( a rap with good figures.

“Photosynthesis Song” ( the same video by Peter Weatherall that appears on YouTube.

“Lachman – Photosynthesis Respiration Song” ( is a short cute video of an elementary classroom singing about photosynthesis.

“Photosynthesis Bioflix Animation” ( is commercially prepared and includes very good computer generated animations

“Photosynthesis and Cell Respiration” ( features animations with music by Linkin Park, “Shadow of the Day”

Use the search box in TeacherTube to find other videos.

Social Networks are recent phenomena on the Web. Originally created to allow individuals, especially students, to communicate with each other, they are rapidly evolving into a major information source on the Internet. They are controversial and complex. For an article on the history, development, usefulness and risks, we recommend the Wikepedia article “Social Network Service” ( Also see: “The Complete History of Social Networking – CBBS to Twitter (

CBP FB page


PARC FB page

Fig. 16. Facebook sites for the ASU Center for Bioenergy & Photosynthesis (upper) ( and the Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center at Washington University (lower) ( ).

Facebook ( started out as a network for college students, then later allowed anyone to join and publish sites. Now it is developing into a major communications site as special interest and corporate sites are added. At the present time there are few sites devoted to photosynthesis, but some have appeared:

The Facebook site for the ASU Center for Bioenergy & Photosynthesis ( is maintained by one of us (LO). See Fig. 16.

The Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center also maintains a dynamic Facebook site ( See Fig. 16.

The Climate Desk (

Steven Chu (

CBP twitter page

Fig. 17. The Twitter site from the ASU Center for Bioenergy & Photosynthesis ( ).

Twitter ( is a micro-blogging site where people send out very small messages limited to 140 characters or less to people that subscribe to their site. Most messages were rather trivial personal statements, but it is now becoming a very popular means to deliver instant news about events. Some examples of photosynthesis sites are:

ASU Center for Bioenergy & Photosynthesis ( and Oliver Morton, author of Eating the Sun ( Many small companies (and some large) are now using Twitter to send out announcements of products and miscellaneous postings that need to go out quickly. See Fig. 17.

Author Contact Information :

Larry Orr
ASU Center for Bioenergy & Photosynthesis
LightWorks and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Arizona State University
Box 871604
Tempe, AZ 85287-1604, USA
Phone: 1-480-965-1963
Fax: 1-480-965-2747
Meet the author

Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Plant Biology
Departments of Biochemistry and Plant Biology and Center of Biophysics and Computational Biology
University of Illinois
265 Morrill Hall, MC-116
505 South Goodwin Avenue
Urbana, IL 61801-3707, USA
Phone: 1-217-337-0627
Fax: 1-217-244-7246
Meet the author

This Website is based on the Educational Review: Photosynthesis Web Resources. Photosynthesis Research (2013) 115: 179–214, DOI: 10.1007/s11120-013-9840-3

Please contact the authors with any broken links, corrections or suggestions