This is an interdisciplinary unit, which includes math, social studies, art and writing activities, as well as science. I will use the unit with my third grade class and link it to our yearlong study of the community.
Ideally the unit should run about four to six weeks depending on the frequency of the lessons and the availability of time. Most units on plants are taught in the spring but, with its use of photosynthesis as a center concept, it could be useful to start a discussion of the process while looking at the changing leaves in the fall.
The unit came from a desire to deal with the requirements of the third grade curriculum in New Haven, as well as, to introduce the far-reaching social implications of the topic of photosynthesis. Plants are one of the main stays in the preschool and elementary classrooms. By dealing with this topic with an emphasis on photosynthesis, I hope students will see a broader implication of how plants influence other life cycles on the earth. The social issues should help to bridge a gap between science and the practical every day life of my students. In the case of photosynthesis, it is important for student to understand that the results of not taking care of the vast plant life that now exists could have devastating effects on their lives. Hopefully, this would help them to see a connection between what we try to do in the classroom and the wider world they live in. Much of the problem is the result of decisions civilization has made. People can and must make a difference if the potential crisis is to be averted. These problems pose great questions and debates within the community and are not easily solved.
I believe the unit can be more meaningful to them because of the basic need it deals with, namely, air quality. Increasingly over the last ten years (and this has been mentioned in countless publications) the cases of asthma and other allergies has risen greatly among school age children. I can attest to that increase among the students I have had the past few years. Many miss significant time from school and have experienced periodic hospitalization because of various respiratory problems. I hope to use the contrast with their own breathing problems and human respiration as a bridge to help them understand the similarity of the process in plants.