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Author(s): Nancy Moreno, PhD, and Barbara Tharp, MS.

Do Plants Need Light?

Only producers, such as green plants, are able to make the molecules needed for life from simple compounds in the air, soil and water. Almost all producers use energy from the sun to make food through photosynthesis. During photosynthesis, light energy is trapped and transformed into chemical energy that can be used by cells. Very few raw materials are required. Green plants need only water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) in the presence of light to manufacture sugar molecules and other carbohydrates, such as starch. Plants use the energy held in carbohydrates to fuel chemical reactions and to make other molecules necessary for life. Other needed materials (such as nitrogen, phosphorous or potassium) are taken in through plant roots. This activity allows students to learn about the needs of plants and the role of light in plant growth.

Growing plants in the classroom can be a simple and rewarding process for students. Elaborate equipment is not necessary for growing plants indoors. If you do not have a window with bright light, place plants under a fluorescent lamp. Allow only about five inches from the tops of the pots or growing plants to the light source. Inexpensive fluorescent lamps appropriate for growing plants often are sold in hardware stores as “shop lights.”

Funded by the following grant(s)

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH

My Health My World: National Dissemination
Grant Number: 5R25ES009259
The Environment as a Context for Opportunities in Schools
Grant Number: 5R25ES010698, R25ES06932

Houston Endowment Inc.

Foundations for the Future: Capitalizing on Technology to Promote Equity, Access and Quality in Elementary Science Education