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Lesson One: Energy Catchers

Energy Catchers


  • Students will know that energy and nutrients enter ecosystems through plants.
  • Students will know that light energy gets converted to chemical energy by photosynthesis.
Time Required: One class period to set up green plant growth experiment and view photosynthesis animation. Measurements and observations of plant growth continue for 7-10 days.

Materials Required:
Notebook1_Energy Catchers worksheet
Cardboard box
Graduated cylinders
Clear plastic cups
Green onions
Drinking straws
Centimeter rulers
Computer and Internet connection

1.  Have students paste Notebook1_EnergyCatchers worksheet into a composition book to create a Redwood Forest Ecology science notebook.
2.  Partner Share: In pairs students list the properties that influence the growth of green plants. Each student then draws pictures in notebooks of how energy and nutrients flow. (light energy-solar, nutrients, water, photosynthesis)
3.  As a class, set up the Green Onion Growth experiment following worksheet directions (listed below):
  • Gather materials and sort into collaborative group sets (baskets, zip lock bags, etc.).
  • Predict which properties are most important to green plant growth as a class--take a poll.
  • Pass out group sets of cups, soil, graduated cylinders, straws, marbles--no water or onions yet.
  • Set up the growing environment according to the worksheet directions.
  • Demonstrate how to cut the onion tops at the bulb and pass out the green onions (2 per student).
  • Students use centimeter rulers to mark a "0" approximately 5 centimeters from one end of the straw and mark remaining straw at 1 centimeter increments.
  • Students plant onion bulbs in cups, put straws in cups with "0" at soil level, and label cups (with student name and "Dark" or "Light") for the environment where cups will be placed.
  • Teacher collects the dark environment cups and puts them in a cardboard box with a cover.
  • Teacher collects the light environment cups and places them in a lighted environment.
  • NOTE: Students will measure and record growth and observation for 7 to 10 days, graph recorded data and answer key questions in notebooks after observations are completed.
4.  View and discuss the photosynthesis animation at the 4H Virtual Forest ( asking key questions: Where does the energy in ecosystems come from? How are the energy and nutrients transferred?

Extension Activity
Research and conduct additional plant experiments demonstrating conversion of light energy into chemical energy (photosynthesis).  Explore interactive Web resources at