Leaves: Nature’s Solar Collectors by: Aaron D. Isabelle and Cornelis de Groot

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One of the most captivating things about plants is the way they capture the Sun’s energy, but this can be a difficult topic to cover with elementary students. Therefore, to help students to make a concrete connection to this abstract concept, this series of solar-energy lessons focuses on leaves and how they act as “solar collectors.” As students pondered the mechanics of leaves’ solar-collecting abilities, they began to understand plant behavior in a meaningful way.

  • Elementary
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Reviews (3)
  • on Tue Jun 28, 2011 6:37 PM

Many students in middle school have trouble understanding the energy involved in cellular processes such as photosynthesis. The authors present three activities that will transform the ideas of energy transfer into a concrete understanding. All activities can be performed by students with supplies easily located and affordable. These activities could easily be adopted for a middle school classroom. The activities are scaffolded to allow learners to develop background knowledge. The progression of activities will enable students to think critically and promote scientific inquiry. The first activity investigates the temperature difference of a small pan and large pan with the same amount of water heated with lamps. In the second activity students investigate leafs and surface areas. In the third activity, students investigate leaf size associated with the location of plants in shade versus direct sunlight. The activities could also be used cross curriculum to teach surface area in an authentic context. I really appreciate the authors’ connection to leafs acting as solar panels.

Angelika Fairweather  (Bradenton, FL)
Angelika Fairweather (Bradenton, FL)

  • on Sun Apr 10, 2011 9:55 PM

The review of this article does not do it justice! Even though the lesson and examples are geared towards elementary students - my middle schoolers loved the analogy of leaves:solar collectors! This inquiry lessons includes everything our young scientists need to be engaged: a question that includes the outdoors, cooperative investigating, and art. I shared this engaging activity with our art teacher (students draw leaf details onto grid paper) and students were once again reminded of science's overlap in their real world!

Alyce Dalzell  (Peyton, CO)
Alyce Dalzell (Peyton, CO)

  • on Tue May 05, 2015 2:58 PM

The journal article does a great with suggesting activities for students who are struggling with complexities of how plants capture the sun's energy. The journal goes into three activities. The first is having students see the temperature difference in a small pan verses a big pan and then having a heat lamp on them. The second activity related to the leaves surface area. The third activity is having the students see the differences between shade and direct sunlight. These are great activities for students, considering this is an area that many students of all ages are struggling in.

Angela Collins  (Lansing, MI)
Angela Collins (Lansing, MI)

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