9 Photosynthesis Lab Experiments for Your Class

Ginelle Testa

Photosynthesis is one of the fundamental processes that occur in living organisms, particularly in plants. Understanding photosynthesis helps students appreciate the role of plants in the biosphere and their significance in sustaining life on earth. 

Teaching this topic in the science classroom helps students develop a deep understanding of the natural world, its complexity, and its interconnectedness. It also helps prepare them for future studies in biology, ecology, and other related fields.
We’ve outlined both in-person experiments and virtual labs you can use to teach photosynthesis!

1. In-person lab: Measure rate of photosynthesis in spinach leaves

Prepare a solution of water and sodium bicarbonate by dissolving 1 g of baking soda in 1 liter of water. Collect several spinach leaves and place them in a beaker of water for a few minutes to hydrate them. Fill several test tubes or small beakers with the sodium bicarbonate solution. Place spinach leaves in each test tube or beaker, ensuring they are fully submerged. After 5 minutes, measure the amount of oxygen produced by the spinach leaves using a Vernier LabQuest or other data-logging equipment.

2. Virtual lab: Pigment Extraction

In Labster’s simulation, Pigment Extraction: Use photosynthesis to produce biofuel and reduce pollution, Roxy, the leader of a team of engineers, will take students on a journey over the sea and show them the most problematic facilities are the coal power plant and the fish farm. To mitigate the problem, students will help create a sustainable plan for energy production using sunlight, heat from a coal power plant, and nutrients from a fish farm.

A virtual lab image showing CO2 from the coal plant.

3. In-person lab: Chromatography experiment

This experiment provides a hands-on opportunity for students to develop important scientific skills, such as making observations, collecting and analyzing data, and drawing conclusions based on evidence. Extract pigments from different leaves using rubbing alcohol and filter paper. The resulting chromatogram will show the different pigments present in each leaf, such as chlorophyll, carotenoids, and anthocyanins. By separating these pigments, students can investigate their individual roles in the process of photosynthesis.

4. Virtual lab: Algae Pigment Analysis

In Labster’s online lab, Photosynthesis: Algae pigment analysis, students will help Roxy, the lead engineer in an environmental project, determine if dark-colored algae can do photosynthesis using green light. They’ll use the Hill reaction and spectrophotometry to measure electron flow and find out if the pigments in the algae can use green light for photosynthesis.

Virtual lab testing algae pigment analysis

5. In-person lab: Oxygen production experiment

This is an activity used to investigate the production of oxygen during photosynthesis in aquatic plants. It involves placing an aquatic plant, such as elodea or Cabomba, in a beaker of water and exposing it to light while measuring oxygen levels in the water over time.

6. Virtual lab: Electron Transport Chain 1

In Labster’s digital lab, Photosynthesis: Electron transport chain, students will observe the inner workings of the electron transport chain inside a plant cell and learn about the process of photosynthesis. Watch electrons flow, and molecules move during each step of the electron transport chain. How can a photon of light be converted into chemical energy?

Virtual lab showing electron transport train.

7. In-person lab: Starch production experiment

This is an activity used to investigate the role of light in the production of starch in plants. The experiment involves placing a leaf in the dark for a period of time to deplete its starch reserves and then exposing it to light to observe the production of starch during photosynthesis.

8. Virtual lab: Electron Transport Chain 2

In Labster’s simulation, Electron Transport Chain: A rollercoaster ride that produces energy, students will help a group of engineers figure out if a mysterious dark alga can do photosynthesis using green light and measure this process with the Hill reaction. If it is, your work will help create a sustainable plan using sunlight and pollution sources for biofuel production.

Virtual lab showing chloroplasts and the option to see inside them.

9. In-person lab: Light intensity experiment

This experiment helps to understand the interplay between light and photosynthesis and how plants adapt to different light conditions in their environment. Use a light source of varying intensities and measure the rate of photosynthesis in a water plant, such as elodea, using a probe or sensor. Observe how the rate of photosynthesis increases with higher light intensity up to a certain point.

Questions for reflection

  • Were any of these in-person or virtual labs new ideas for you?
  • Which one can you implement in your classroom?
a man sitting in front of a computer monitor
Bring Science to Life
Immersive Learning Simulations

Labster helps universities and high schools enhance student success in STEM.

Request Demo

Discover The Most Immersive Digital Learning Platform.

Request a demo to discover how Labster helps high schools and universities enhance student success.

Request Demo