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Plant Transpiration

A Story of Clean Air


Sandra J. Connelly
Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences
Rochester Institute of Technology


This flipped case study is formatted as a PowerPoint presentation that uses group experimentation to encourage active learning in a large science classroom. There are options for using either wet bench experimentation or an online simulation, depending on the class goals. Students learn about plant transpiration and how it affects normal plant processes (photosynthesis). The basics of transpiration are covered in an animated video viewed outside of class. The experiment and/or simulation of transpiration can be conducted in or out of class. If the class is very large, the instructor may choose to assign the experiment/simulation for outside of class (post-video) and have the students bring their data to class, or the instructor may choose to just present the students with a data set from which they can work with their groups in class. At the end, students should be able to define transpiration, explain climate effects on transpiration rates, and how transpiration rates affect the overall physiology of the plant itself, through their own hypothesis design and experimentation.


  • Explain how transpiration moves fluids and gases in plants.
  • Apply experimental/simulated data to answer a real-world question.


transpiration; oxygen; plants; evaporation; gas exchange; respiration; air quality; Priestley; candle

Topical Areas


Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division, General public & informal education



Type / Methods

Demonstration, Flipped, Laboratory



Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Ecology  |   Environmental Science  |   Botany / Plant Science  |   Science (General)  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Answer Key

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The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  • How Respiration and Transpiration Were Brought to Light by Priestley
    This video provides a light-hearted introduction to how plants respire so that students can consider the potential for gas/vapor exchange in plants. The video goes on to explore the experiments of Joseph Priestley in the 1770s as he discovered oxygen in a closed space using candles and plants. Running time: 5:53 min. Created by Sandra J. Connelly for the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, 2017.
  • How to Grow Fresh Air
    This video provides an introduction to the problem of air contamination and how plants may be used to improve air quality. The case study will expand on this basic introduction; however, students feel a connection to the real-world problem through Mr. Meattle’s personal story. Running time: 4:04 min. Created by Kamal Meattle, 2009.