Plants and Photosynthesis STEM


Looking to teach your students about how plants make their food? This Plants and Photosynthesis STEM lesson plan is perfect for you! Students will identify the parts of a plant and understand the process of photosynthesis. In addition, they will understand the importance and relationship of plants to other life on Earth (creating oxygen, food source, habitat, etc.).

This lesson builds on student knowledge about plants. Students will participate in two hands-on experiments. One explores how sunlight affects the leaves of a plant. The other makes an invisible process of photosynthesis visible.

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What our Plants and Photosynthesis STEM lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Plants and Photosynthesis STEM explores both the different parts of a plant and how they work together to convert energy into food. Students will learn to identify each plant part and explain its function within the photosynthesis process. They will also discover the relationship between these life forms and others on Earth. This lesson is for students in 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. This lesson requires an active leaf for each group, masking tape or aluminum foil, clear bowls or containers, water, a small rock, and a magnifying glass.

Options for Lesson

You will find suggestions in the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page to incorporate into the lesson. One idea is to plant different types of plants and watch them grow as a class. You could have students keep journals about the plant over the course of several weeks and observe how it develops. Another option is to connect with a local nursery and have an associate come talk about different plants with the class. They could bring samples of various specimens for students to compare.

Teacher Notes

The paragraph on this page gives you a little more information on the lesson overall and describes what you may want to focus your teaching on. The blank lines are available for you to write out any thoughts or ideas you have as you prepare.


Parts of Plants

The Plants and Photosynthesis STEM lesson plan contains two pages of content. Students will first learn about the six main components of a plant and their functions. Roots absorb water and nutrients from the soil. They also help support the plant by anchoring it to the ground. This allows the plant to stay put when it gets windy.

A plant’s stem transports food, water, and nutrients to the rest of the plant. It has three parts: xylem, phloem, and cambium. The xylem and phloem make up the transportation system. The cambium is where the cells divide in order for the plant to grow. Just like the roots, the stem provides support to the leaves, flowers, and fruit.

Leaves help collect sunlight so that the plant can turn it into food through photosynthesis. This is why most leaves are flat and broad. The larger the surface area, the more food the plant can make. Flowers of a plant are very colorful and often smell good to attract pollinators, like bees and butterflies. Flowers also produce fruit and help make new seeds.

Speaking of seeds, a seed has three parts: embryo, endosperm, and seed coat. The embryo turns into the baby plant. Endosperm is essentially the place where the seed can store food. The coat protects the seed from damage, disease, and too much moisture. Finally, the fruit of a plant has a critical job: protect the seeds. Most seeds live inside the fruit. Fruit can also help spread seeds around.


The second content page focuses on the process of photosynthesis and explains how it works. This process is what allows plants to convert light into food. Water and carbon dioxide, as well as the chlorophyll within plant cells, are also important components in this process. The prefix photo- means light, and the suffix -synthesis means putting together.

Plants make their food by using carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight. They absorb water through their roots and carbon dioxide from the air. They store the two inputs in the cells of their leaves. When the leaves soak up sunlight, the plant can transform light energy into food energy.

The outputs of this process include sugar and oxygen, which humans and animals need to breathe. Interestingly enough, humans and animals produce carbon dioxide in their bodies, which is a substance plants need. Therefore, we could not live without plants, and plants could not live without us!


The Plants and Photosynthesis STEM lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each one will help students solidify their grasp of the material they learned throughout the lesson. You can refer to the classroom procedure guidelines to know when to hand out each worksheet.


For the activity, students will discover how light affects plants. They will first find a leaf and draw a picture of it. Then they will describe what they observe about the leaf. The next part of the activity requires them to wrap part of the leaf in masking tape or tin foil and place it in a sunny area of the classroom. After a few days, students will remove the tape and draw another picture, and again record what they see. Finally, they will answer questions about what happened to the leaf and why.


Similar to the activity, students will use a leaf to examine what happens to it in a certain environment. This time, they will first answer a question about what happens when they let out their breath under water. Next, they will fill a clear container with water and submerge a leaf within it. They will use the rock you provide to keep the leaf from floating to the surface. After placing the container in a sunny area, and waiting a certain period of time, they will observe the leaf with a magnifying glass. The worksheet asks three questions for them to answer regarding what they observed.


The homework assignment requires students to observe various plants in their refrigerators. Students will look inside their fridge to find examples of roots, fruit, seeds, leaves, stems, and flowers. There is a chart they will use to write down the examples they find. The worksheet mentions that they can look online to find additional examples if they need to.

Worksheet Answer Keys

The lesson plan provides answer keys for all three worksheets. All the correct answers are in red to make it easy for you to compare them to students’ work. For the most part, students’ responses will vary on much of the worksheets given the nature of the assignments. However, the answer keys provide a few answers that should be correct across the board regardless. For the homework answer key, the answers are sample responses. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade



State Educational Standards

NGSS.3-LS4-4, NGSS.5-LS1-1, NCSS.5-LS2-1

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.