Stories. Timelines. Visual data. Photosynthesis. Botanical art.
You’ll find them all in Historical Plant Studies: Tools for Enhancing Students’ Understanding of Photosynthesis by Dr. Stephen Thompson, professor of science education at the University of South Carolina.
Using the 5E learning model, Thompson helps students connect with scientists who, centuries ago, worked diligently to explain the source of plant matter.
Thompson (2014) prepares historical accounts of their studies and assigns one scientist to each student group in his class. Thompson’s students learn about the research of Jan Baptista van Helmont (1649), John Woodward (late 1600s) and Stephen Hales (1727), Joseph Priestly (1770s), Jan Ingenhousz (1790s) and Nicolas-Theodore de Saussure (1804).
After reading about the contributions made by their respective scientist, each student group begins the task of preparing an informational poster featuring their scientist’s hypothesis, materials and methods, results and conclusions.
Thompson (2014) encourages students to create their posters using mostly visual information and only the amount of text necessary to explain key information.
When completed, student posters are placed along a historical timeline and are presented in chronological order. As students present their poster,
Thompson (2014) gently corrects student misconceptions. Students are then asked to create a graphic organizer summarizing each study and are asked to draw models and write a description for one of the studies (Thompson, 2014). Thompson uses the drawing and writing exercise as an assessment tool to evaluate student understanding.
Photosynthesis is not an easy concept to grasp. Fortunately, Thompson (2014) makes this topic easy to understand and easy to teach, thanks to him sharing his written passages with fellow teachers. Get a copy of Historical Plant Studies and you’ll be ready to try this activity yourself and be ready to help students tell the story of how plants make food.
Thompson, Stephen. 2014. Historical plant studies: Tools for enhancing students’ understanding of photosynthesis. Science Scope. 37(6): 43-53