Sunlight and Photosynthesis: Lesson Plan

Sunlight is a crucial abiotic factor in the health of living organisms. Researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill have identified how plants maximize efficiency for capturing enough sunlight—but not too much—for photosynthesis.

UNC-TV Media

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • 6.L.2.3 — Summarize how the abiotic factors (such as temperature, water, sunlight and soil quality) of biomes (freshwater, marine, forest, grasslands, desert and Tundra) affect the ability of organisms to grow, survive and/or create their own food through photosynthesis.

Learning Outcomes

Students will discuss the limits of an organism’s tolerance when the organism receives too much or too little of an environmental factor.

Essential Questions

How does an excess of sunlight affect a plant’s ability to perform photosynthesis?

Essential Vocabulary

  • Photosynthesis
  • Abiotic
  • Biotic
  • Chlorophyll
  • Protein
  • Nutrients


The focus of this lesson is the role of sunlight in photosynthesis. Students can revisit the photosynthesis process by viewing the UNC-TV Science animation Photosynthesis

Subjects for discussion: 

  1. What do you think would happen to photosynthesis if there was no sunlight at all and we lived in eternal and complete darkness? 
  2. What do you think would happen to photosynthesis if there was too much sunlight?


Students will explore the relationship between sunlight and photosynthesis, and answer the questions on the attached PDF. They can use the websites listed below, or other resources.    



Students will watch the UNC-TV Science video Plants and Shadows, and answer questions on the attached PDF.


Sunlight is one abiotic factor that influences the health of living organisms; temperature is another. Students can find more about the ways in which excessively hot or cold temperatures impact the growth of strawberry plants by viewing the UNC-TV Science video Strawberry Mania

Subjects for discussion:

  1. How does humidity in the air impact the bloom of the plant?
  2. What do the strawberry plants need to do in order to survive temperatures under 28-degrees Fahrenheit?
  3. How does irrigation helps protect strawberry plants from excessively hot temperatures, and from excessively cold temperatures?


Have students illustrate the relationship between sunlight and photosynthesis, or write a paragraph that describes it. Their art or writing should include information about the effects of too much sunlight during photosynthesis.