plants and then fossilized as coal. The "something" would later be released again as light and heat as the coal burned. But Hutton had no concept of chemical or light energy—concepts introduced only decades later by Julius Mayer. Ms. M. would stop her history here. Students would review how various factors had shaped the development of early knowledge about photosynthesis. She would record and organize their views on the chalkboard. From this they would develop a set of questions for continuing the history on their own.

Ms. M. had collected a number of textbooks from different periods in the century. She would introduce them as a resource for sketching the changing status of knowledge about photosynthesis. She would have the students work in groups of five. Each group would prepare a brief presentation on ideas of photosynthesis during a particular historical period. After two days to gather information, each group would share the result of their research and together they would identify or infer what discoveries had been made in each period. Then, using the questions they had formulated earlier, the students would return to their groups to determine how each discovery had occurred. They would identify factors such as new technologies that were relevant to conducting investigations, the sources of funding for various research projects, the personal interests of researchers, occasions of luck or chance, and the theories that had guided research. Finally, each group would share two patterns that they had uncovered and how they had reached their conclusion.

Through this activity, students would come to realize that scientific understanding does not emerge all at once or fully formed. Further, the students recognized that each new concept reflected the personal backgrounds, time, and place of its discoverers. At the very end of the period Ms. M would ask the students to speculate on what scientists might ask about photosynthesis today or in the future, and what factors might shape their research.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement