In this unit, students use observations to understand the basic needs of plants, such as water and sunlight. They also observe young plants and the changes they undergo as they grow from seed to seedling.
In this lesson, students make observations of plants in order to identify their needs and that they are, in fact, living things. In the activity, Plant Dance, students engage in a kinesthetic activity in which they observe and then model the appearance of plants when their needs are and aren’t met.
THIS LESSON WAS REVISED ON JULY 24, 2020. If you've prepped prior to that date,
here is the link to the previous version.
In this lesson, students investigate what plants need to grow. In the two-part activity, Sprout a Seed, students plant radish seeds in paper cups. When the seeds sprout, students notice that the leaves of the young plants lean toward the light. A classroom root viewer made from a Ziploc bag and paper towels lets students observe root growth.
This is a two-part activity. We recommend that you allow at least four days (up to one week) in between Part One and Part Two of the experiment to give the radish seeds time to germinate. (To speed germination, soak the seeds in water overnight.)
You will need access to water and a sunny windowsill where the radish seeds can grow.
We recommend students work in pairs for this activity and share some supplies with another pair. Homeschool students can work on their own.
Prep Radish Seeds
For each group of four students, put a pinch of radish seeds (at least 15 seeds) in a Dixie cup.
Prep Dixie Cups
For each student, fill a Dixie cup halfway with moist potting soil. Or if you are using peat pellets, place one pellet in each cup, fill the cup with water, and let the pellet soak up the water for at least 30 minutes.
Prep Spray Bottles
In each spray bottle, mix about 1 cup of water with about ¼ teaspoon of baking soda. Adding baking soda will inhibit mold growth in the soil, but won’t affect the plants.
Prep Root Viewer
To give your students a way to see what their radish seeds are doing underground, you can make a root viewer. Here’s how:
*Fold paper towels and put them in a Ziploc bag.
*Add water until the towels are saturated.
*Place three seeds on top of the wet paper towel.
*Squeeze the air out of the bag and zip it closed.
*Tape the bag to a wall or window and encourage your students to check each day for roots growing from the seeds.
Plan Your Time
After students complete Part One of this activity, they will need to wait at least four days for the seeds to sprout. Each day, encourage your students to watch the seeds in the root viewer as a way to see what is happening to their seeds under the soil in the cup.
When most of the leaves have come up, show Part Two of the activity. If you like, you can have your students draw the plants as they grow and change.
Read-Along Lesson 3: Human Impacts on the Environment
In this Read-Along lesson, Sam wonders why his grandmother wants to keep an old log in her yard—until he begins to meet a few of her friends. The lesson includes a short exercise where students pretend to be lizards eating ants, and discover why old logs are helpful to animals. You can extend the lesson with the optional activity, Animal Visitors, where students learn what they could put in a yard or park to attract animals.
As an optional activity, we suggest having students discuss what they could put in a yard or park to attract animals. We include videos that show birds in a birdbath, at a bird feeder, and in a bird house, reinforcing the idea that animals are are attracted to spots that offer food, water, and shelter.
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