Activity 5.1: Tracing the Process of Potatoes Growing: Biosynthesis (40 min)

Target Student Performance

Students “zoom in” to the structure and function of a potato plant’s systems and cells, tracing atoms and energy.

Resources You Provide

Resources Provided

Recurring Resources


Print one copy of the Potato 11 x 17 Poster, and gather 5 pennies and 1 nickel for every pair of students. Print and cut apart 5.1 Soil Minerals for Tracing the Process of Potatoes Growing. Print one copy of the 5.1 Tracing Atoms and Energy in Plants Worksheet for each student. Print one copy of Tracing the Process of Potatoes Growing: Biosynthesis Directions for each student or pair of students. Prepare a computer and a projector to display the PPT and video. Print and hang the Digestion and Biosynthesis 11 x 17 Posters, and the Metabolic Pathways Poster.


1. Have students start to think about how plants grow.

Tell students that in today’s activity we will use molecular modeling to think about how plants grow through biosynthesis.


  • Matter tracing: note if students are able to recognize that the same atoms that were in the reactants are also in the products.
  • Energy tracing: note the ways that students explain how chemical energy is conserved through both digestion and biosynthesis.


  • During the tracing activity and animation, focus on how matter and energy are conserved through the chemical change. This is the main goal of the activity!

  • Remind students of the terms Large Organic Molecules and Small Organic Molecules with examples from past units.
  • Strategic grouping with strong speakers
  • Hand out individual Potato 11 x 17 Poster for students to trace molecules that can be written on
  • Work on 5.1 Tracing Atoms and Energy in Plants Worksheet together and create a pie chart to show what makes up plants from the information students gather
  • Have the students “act out” biosynthesis by assigning them molecules using signs. Have them move around the room to represent the processes by linking hands.
Extending the Learning
  • Have students research the role of nitrogen in plants for homework and share what they learn. Ask: How do plants and animals obtain and use nitrogen differently?