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This Mystery is out of date! Please proceed to Plant Adventures to see the updated version.
Plant Adventures Unit
Do plants eat dirt?
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Predict:

What do you think will happen? Why?

Turn to someone next to you. Tell them your prediction and your reason why.

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Discuss:

What do you think will happen if we keep growing our plant without dirt? Why?

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Discuss:

Where do you think these plants get the minerals they need to survive?

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Discuss:

So if someone said to you, "Plants eat dirt," would you agree or disagree with them? What would you say to them?

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You've completed the Exploration & Activity!

If you have more time, view the assessment, reading, and extension activity in the extensions.

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Extensions

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity & exploration which you just completed.
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Flower Demonstration

To do this demonstration, you have to prepare the day before. You'll need a bouquet of white flowers and food coloring. See below for detailed instructions.

When your flowers are ready for the demonstration, pass out them out so that everyone can look at a flower up close.


Discuss: These flowers soaked up water that had been colored blue. Where did the water go in the plant?

Reveal answer

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Extra Activity: Dissect a Root

Dissecting a radish root gives students a chance for careful observation. For instructions, see this sample lesson on roots from the University of California’s botanical garden. If you have time for an extensive examination of edible roots, you’ll find many ideas in this detailed lesson.

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Extra Activity: Branches in a Leaf

If the demonstration of water traveling into a flower intrigues your students, you can give them a chance to examine this more closely.

Cut some pale lettuce leaves from a lettuce head and put the cut end in red or blue-colored water. (Butter lettuce works well.) Like the flower, the lettuce leaves will soak up the colored water, revealing a pattern of veins in the lettuce leaf. Have children draw the pattern of veins in a lettuce leaf. These are usually difficult to see, but the food coloring makes them visible.

You can do other experiments involving dyes in leaf veins.

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Extra Activity: Grow Your Name

If your students are interested in growing plants in water (without dirt), try making a very simple hydroponic garden. All you need is a damp kitchen sponge or piece of cotton cloth, sprinkled with lettuce or radish seeds.

Your students can write their names in seeds, and watch them grow, following the very simple instructions from Tim Hunkin.

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Image & Video Credits

Mystery Science respects the intellectual property rights of the owners of visual assets. We make every effort to use images and videos under appropriate licenses from the owner or by reaching out to the owner to get explicit permission. If you are the owner of a visual and believe we are using it without permission, please contact us—we will reply promptly and make things right.

Exploration
Venus Fly Trap inside pot by Andrew Dalton
garden by Srl
dirt mixed with water in jug by Ildar Sagdejev
watering can by Imgur
finger in Venus Fly Trap by Carnivorous Corner
sprout by Living Countryside
fly landing on Venus Fly Trap by skmarimba
Venus Fly Trap video by Totally Amazing Videos (User name)
dirt by 0x0077BE
seeds in water by missvickie.com
Pitcher plant by François MEY
bean root by Ms. Roo
salt on spoon by Charlotte Jain
Chewable vitamins by Carlson Labs
growing corn by mindlapse
Pitcher plant chambers by François MEY
Frog in pitcher plant by Brad's Greenhouse
Hydroculture by Ma9900
mouse in pitcher plant by Ken Hannaford
space city drawing (1) by Seth Pritchard
space city drawing (2) by NASA Ames Research Center
space city drawing (3) by NASA Ames Research Center
sprouts in dirt by Christhefuzzy
Red flowers by Alex Gall
venus fly trap by William Vann
Overview
Grade 2nd
Topic Plant Adaptations
Focus Roots, Water, & Minerals
Print Prep
Activity Prep

To view a revised version of this lesson, please click here.
In this Mystery, students will learn the importance of water (which is taken in by the roots) for plants, and what it is about dirt that plants really need. In the activity, Root Viewer, they’ll build a Root Viewer to observe a radish seed as it develops roots. Students draw a picture of the seed and its root each day for four days.

Preview activity

Number of students:
Root Viewer worksheet Print 30 copies
Paper Towels
30 sheets
Sticker Labels (1" x 3")
Masking tape will also work. We prefer stickers because they are easier to distribute in a classroom.
Details
30 labels
Ziploc Bags (Sandwich Size)
30 bags
CD Case
30 cases
Radish Seeds
1 3-gram packet
Prep Instructions

Plan Your Time

After students make a root viewer, they will check on how the roots are growing and draw what they see each day. The root will grow downward, sensing and responding to gravity. On the third day of observation, students will turn their root viewers so that the root must change direction to continue growing downward.

If a weekend falls during the four-day observation period, students should take their root viewers home and do the daily observation as homework.

Storing Your Root Viewers

To store your root viewers in your classroom, stack all the CD cases together in a large ziplock bag or plastic box. Make sure the arrows marked on the CD cases are all pointing in the same direction. Seeds do not need light to sprout and grow roots.

Temperature will affect the speed of root growth. In a warm room, the root will be about an inch long on day 3 (the day students are told to turn the root viewer). If your room is cool, the roots may need another day to grow.

Alternate Version of This Activity

If for some reason you can’t get enough CD cases for your class, you can make a root viewer with a bean in a Ziploc bag as a class demonstration. Use these instructions from the Chicago Botanical Garden. This classroom demo will take longer, since beans grow more slowly than radishes.

Overview
Grade 2nd
Topic Plant Adaptations
Focus Roots, Water, & Minerals
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