Need for Change, Option C:
Video on Photosynthesis Misconceptions

Estimated Time: 15 minutes.

Example of Use: Sample 6-Hour Workshop Agenda.

List of Materials

Review and preset video.

Sample Presentation
Display a maple seed pod and maple seedling, if possible.

Presenter: The purpose of this activity is to demonstrate the extent of science illiteracy in the United States. We know that, if you plant a maple seed, it will often grow into a seedling. Eventually, the seedling will grow into a maple tree so big that a log this size can be cut from its branch.

Display the log.

Presenter: The question we’ll focus on today is: Where does the substance of this log come from? It began as a tiny seed, of very little mass. It becomes a large tree with a very great mass indeed. Where does the material, the "stuff" the tree is made of, come from? Please jot down your own answer to this question, knowing that your response is for your eyes only.

Give participants a few moments to think and write.

Show TRANSPARENCY: Benchmark 5E Flow of Matter and Energy (6-8)#1, which briefly describes the process of photosynthesis.

Be sure to point out that the "stuff" of the log is made from glucose, which comes mainly from the carbon dioxide in the air. (The much lighter hydrogen in glucose comes from the water; the oxygen from the water is released into the air.)

Presenter: How do you believe Harvard and MIT graduates would respond to the question of where the "stuff" of a log comes from? 

Accept responses. Show the segment of the videotape that includes the responses of Harvard and MIT graduates.

Presenter: In what ways are the graduates’ ideas correct about where the "stuff" of the log comes from? (Possible responses: The graduates know sunlight is involved; they know water is involved.)

Presenter: In what ways are the graduates’ ideas incorrect?

(Possible responses: The graduates seem to think water, soil, nutrients become the substance of the tree; they do not understand how carbon dioxide from the air contributes to the substance of the tree.)

Ask participants why they think such misunderstandings exist. Answers will vary. Participants may say one factor is a failure to understand how, when ingredients "A" are combined with ingredients "B," the new substance or substances may be very different from either of the previous substances.

Presenter: This video shows us just one example of the limited level of understanding of science that exists in our society, even among the best educated segments of our population.

If time permits, you might ask participants to share examples of the lack of understanding of science from their experience.

Presenter: It was to correct this situation, to reform science education so that Americans would be more science literate, that Project 2061 was begun.