Students go inside a leaf to look at a photosynthesis process. They learn about the process through reading, demonstrations, experiments, and a board game. They continue their study of chlorophyll by making a printed fabric. As a conclusion, they go inside a plant cell and make a three-dimensional model of some of the plant cell’s parts.

Some activities in this and other sections suggest Web sites for you or your students. We hope you will find them rewarding additions to your study of plants. However, Web sites move or sometimes disappear altogether. If you cannot arrive at any of these suggested sites, use your preferred search engine to locate alternates. As with all work using the World Wide Web, please monitor your student’s research.


Alaska Standards

To understand the varied growing conditions needed by different plants.

To learn indigenous plants’ names and characteristics.

Science: A. 1, 2, 9, 10, 14; B. 1; D. 1
World Languages: B. 1
Skills for a Healthy life: B. 1, 3

To use problem-solving skills in planning experiments and using the scientific process.

Science: A. 9, 10; B. 1, 2, 3, 5; C
English: C; D
Mathematics: A. 2, 3, 6; C. 1; E. 2, 3
Technology: A. 1, 2, 3; B.1, 2

To understand local cultural heritage and stewardship for the environment.

English: A; B. 2, 3; C; D. 2, 3; E
Cultural: A. 3, 4, 5, 6; B. 1, 2; C. 1, 3; D. 1, 3, 4; E. 1, 2
History: B. 1
Arts: A. 3; B. 8


  • log book
  • pencils, pens
  • clear nail polish (optional)
  • hand lens

Leaf Food Factory Game

  • glue
  • laminating supplies
  • scissors
  • dice
  • game board * (Appendix)
  • playing pieces, one per student. Recommendations include coins, rings, nuts, small pebbles, small bottle caps. Students may provide their own. Each player at a game board should have a different playing piece.
  • challenge cards* (Appendix)
  • atoms and units of sunlight:
    You may wish to use the paper* versions supplied (Appendix). As an alternate, consider substituting multi-colored or multi-shaped food such as cereal or candy—wrapped or unwrapped (M&Ms™, Skittles™, Star-bursts™). You will need 4 different color or shape combinations to provide for every 4 students this amount of atoms and units of sunlight:
      • 30 for C, Carbon
      • 57-60 for H, hydrogen
      • 94-100 for O, Oxygen
      • 48-50 for units of sunlight
    • If you use M&Ms™, you will need one 10 ounce (283.5 g.) package for every 3 students. Use the brown M&Ms™ for the oxygen, yellow for the sun, red for carbon and blue for hydrogen. Students will discover after they make the simple sugar formula that there are many “O” leftover. These are the oxygen by-products of the photosynthesis process. You may wish to allow students to eat them as a reward! Or you may wish to offer the unused colors for the rewards.
  • 3 small containers to hold 50 to 100 “atoms” each and units of sunlight (approximately fist-sized or larger depending on your choice of materials for atom and units of sunlight ) labeled:
      • light box
      • air resources box
      • water resources box
  • paper towel or napkins for each student (optional)
  • plastic baggies for “mittens” to help keep hand “bugs” away from ingredients (optional)
  • prizes (optional). Suggestions include fruit, or M&Ms™ or other candy; certificates; stickers

Hammered leaf print:

  • 100% cotton fabric or unbleached muslin. You can select small pieces to produce as samples. Larger projects are also possible such as t-shirts, table cloths, or napkins. Any 100% cotton fabric can be used. Perhaps a class-finished project of napkins or a handkerchief as a thank you for an Elder or expert is the appropriate final product. You might also wish to produce a textile sample to include with the Class Herbarium or as a cover for the herbarium collection.
  • natural soap such as ivory
  • flat-headed hammer (1 for every 4-6 students)
  • roll of masking tape
  • sturdy flat surface
  • ink-free newsprint
  • wax paper
  • water: increase or decrease water amount in the recipes shown below depending on the amount of fabric used.
  • ferrous sulfate, alum, and/ or wood ashes (these are called mordants in the natural dye process) Increase or decrease the amounts in the recipes depending on the amount of fabric used.
  • salt, baking soda, or washing soda (sodium carbonate)
  • safety goggles or safety glasses (for each student who measures and stirs chemicals)
  • measuring cup
  • tablespoon
  • leaves, fresh and in excellent condition. Include collections from the wild or from garden or house plants such as carrots, marigolds, or ivy. Thin, flat leaves will transfer color better than thick juicy ones.
  • additional materials as described in activity web sites



People traditionally hear about values many times during their lives. Whether they embrace them as their own depends on many factors, especially whether they are ready. Storytellers in Unangan/Unangas villages would watch the community carefully for signs of readiness for such a lesson. When they would sense that lessons should be brought up, they would tell a specific story woven with the lesson. Those who would learn the lessons would begin to memorize the stories and imagine how they might fit into the role of the storyteller later on.

The concept of balance having importance is a value for which your community of students may be ready. There is no right length or sequence for this discussion. However, It is important to have the discussion and explore what individuals are ready to express. The concept will be repeated many times during this study, the year, the lives of the young people with you.

The Unangam values statement about balance provides a springboard for an exploration of a number of subjects including ethics in science or life. Some introductory questions are included here:

  1. What does it mean to eat a balanced diet?
  2. If someone is interested in and pursues only one thing, can they have a balanced lifestyle?
  3. Use the word balance in a sentence. Now, can someone else use it another way? Another?
  4. Why should there be balance in the world?
  5. What are some synonyms of balance? Antonyms?
  6. What does excess mean?
  7. What is a paucity?
  8. What is the meaning of the word balance?
  9. Describe what you think would be a good balance of activities for yourself?

ACTIVITY ONE. Students conduct experiments or prepare demonstrations about photosynthesis using text and Web resources. You can find questions and answers about photosynthesis at this web site:

Inside activity
Estimated duration: 30-40 minutes to begin; follow-up times will vary.

ACTIVITY TWO. Students play a photosynthesis game “The Leaf Food Factory” (see game pages in Appendix)

Inside activity:
Estimated duration: 40-60 minutes

Copy the game board, atoms, units of sunlight, and challenge cards to make enough sets for each group of 4 students. (A set for 4 students is included in the Appendix.) If you are using the game as a learning station for fewer than the whole class, copy and laminate a set for each station. Laminate the atoms, units of sunlight, and challenge cards and cut them apart. Glue the pages of the game board together. Cut out the leaf shape of the game board. Laminate the game board. Collect 3 small boxes and label them.

light box
air resources box
water resources box

If you use m&m’s as the atoms and units of sunlight, make sure students wash their hands before playing. You may prefer to have students use plastic bag “mittens” when handling unwrapped foods. Also, remind students that the refined sugars in candy or cereals are similar to, but not identical to, the simple sugars that plants make through photosynthesis. You may want to assign a student to research some of the different kinds of sugars and report to the class on nutritional comparisons.

Depending on the level of your class, you may wish to adjust some of the playing requirements. For example, students can begin the play with 4 sets of molecules instead of 3 sets of molecules.

Decide if you want to offer awards to the students as they finish. Suggestions include a fruit piece, or an M&M™ or other candy; a certificate; a sticker.

ACTIVITY THREE. Students show leaf chlorophyll on a fabric by making a hammered leaf print.

Inside activity
Estimated duration: set-up 20-30 minutes; completion 20-30 minutes plus drying time.

Students should try a small sample to get the feel of hammering the leaf so that they keep the pattern and shape of the leaf while transferring the color to the fabric.

A note about the chemicals you will use: although relatively safe, these and all chemicals should be used with adult supervision and with eye protection. Remind students to measure carefully.

Ferrous sulfate is a chemical used in water purification, fertilizers, pigments, photography and medicine. It is also called copperas, green coperas, green vitriol, iron vitriol and iron sulfate. In traditional times, the textile artist would not be able to go to the drugstore and ask the pharmacist if this substance was sold there. Nor would s/he have gone to the Web and contacted Carolina Chemical or a weaving/spinning supplier for the materials. Sometimes the chemical was found as a bluish-green crystal-like solid on the ground. Sometimes, especially after European contact the fabric was heated in water in an old rusting iron kettle whose surfaces would impart the final color fixing to the textile. You may wish to test this iron kettle technique with your textiles as an alternative to using the pure chemical.

Alum is also called aluminum potassium sulfate, potash alum, and potassium alum. It is a colorless, odorless crystalline chemical used in medicine, and in dyeing and tanning. Raw alum is an alkaline substance found naturally in washes or areas of recent water evaporation. It is chemically different than the alum you can buy in spice bottles at the grocery store.

To purchase mordant supplies, you may wish to contact a spinning and dyeing source on the web.

If you decide to buy one or more of the mordant chemicals, you might want to continue the plant dyeing process by gathering wild blossoms, leaves, bark, or lichens and doing additional natural dyeing projects. Some of the dye descriptions for Alaska plants can be also be found in Schofield’s Discovering Wild Plants. (see index for specific pages). Your local experts or Elders may also have suggestions about appropriate natural dye materials. Natural dye colors vary from area to area for any given plant, depending on the local growing conditions. A plant that results in one color in Anchorage may give a different result in Unalaska or St. Paul. Testing small samples is always a good idea if you are looking for specific results.

Dye recipes are available in a number of books. See Resources in the Appendix.

ACTIVITY FOUR. Students report on their “place” selected in Section One for “Pick a Place” and report on its changes.

Outside activity
Estimated duration: 30 minutes for homework

ACTIVITY FIVE. Students examine and dissect a virtual cell on the Web and make a 3-D plant cell model.

Inside activity
Estimated duration: 30-40 minutes in 2 sessions.

EXTENSIONS: See student pages.

Assessment opportunity: Student describes the photosynthesis process in simple terms to the teacher or makes a simple sketch of the process.


Teacher Assessment Rubric, Section Four

Name of student: ___________________________________________
  1. Always 2. Sometimes 3. Never

Stays on task.


Completes work.


Asks questions.


Works cooperatively with peers and gains insight from their activities.


Is respectful of values.


Is respectful of Elders.


Understands the information.


Needs help with:






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