Do Plants Need Sunlight?


This lesson developed by Reach Out!

Recommended Age Group: Early Elementary, Later Elementary

Guiding Questions:

1. Do plants need sunlight?

2. What happens if plants do not get sunlight?




Green plants need these things in order to use the energy from light in order to grow:




  1. A green plant with healthy green leaves
  2. Paper clips
  3. Black construction paper


Room Preparation: Need to be able to put plants on a shelf or table where they get plenty of sunlight.

Safety Precautions: None

Procedures and Activity


Ask the guiding questions:

  1. Do plants need sunlight?
  2. What happens if plants do not get sunlight?

Ask children to share ideas, facts or experiences to answer the first question, “Do plants need sunlight?” Don’t accept a simple “yes” or “no.”

Children will probably agree that plants need sunlight or they will die. Then deal with the second question, “What happens if plants do not get sunlight?” Share that in order for us to answer this question, we need to think and act like scientists. A scientist takes a question like this and then conducts an experiment to see what really happens and to gather data or facts.

Today, we will start an experiment that will take a week to conduct, to see if plants need sunlight and to see what happens to plants when they don’t get sunlight.



Closing - Original Question

  Ask again:

  1. Do plants need sunlight?
  2. What happens if plants do not get sunlight?

Listen as children discuss their experiment, what they observed, and draw conclusions on what they think happened to leaves when they were covered up and then uncovered. Encourage them to use terms including sunlight, energy, chlorophyll, and experiment.

If possible, let them help another group conduct this experiment. You can really see if they understand the concepts when they teach someone else!

Extension Ideas

  1. An alert reader has noted that this lesson is over-simplified for children. Note that “This is not a conclusive experiment to show that plants require light. Covering the bottom of the leaf may prevent carbon dioxide from entering the leaf stomata, which will prevent photosynthesis even with adequate light.” Putting the entire plant in a dark closet would be a more definitive experiment.

  2. Some may be interested in learning more about chlorophyll and photosynthesis. Encourage them to do some research and gather information to share with others. The article “Avoid Misconceptions when Teaching about Plants,” by the reader referred to above, is a detailed and comprehensive source.

  3. Another fun and easy experiment is to take a shoe box or other cardboard box cover and put it on top of a very green grassy area. Put a rock on top of the box so it stays put. Every day for a week, take a quick peek to see what is happening to the grass under the box. After a week, look at the grass and see if there are similarities between it and the leaves we experimented with. Watch the grass for another week to see if it turns green again and how quickly it happens.

Careers Related to Lesson Topic

Prerequisite Vocabulary

Green substance in plants.

Living thing that usually can produce its own food, reproduces, and rarely is able to move around. Many are green and have a substance called chlorophyll. Examples are vines, shrubs, flowers, trees, and grasses.

Light that comes from the sun.

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