Back Yard Botany

Growing plants from seeds

Science objectives:
  Develop observation skills, data recording skills, reporting skills, ability to maintain interest in a long term project.
  Exposure to the concepts of growth and development.  Things change in more or less predictable ways.
  Increase awareness of plants in our environment.
Adjunct objectives:
  Practice communication skills, increase vocabulary.
  Increase understanding and appreciation of farming, and understanding of our food and its sources.
  Increase self esteem as students care for plants and see them grow (especially if they eat the result of their labor).

  Foam cups, pots, or other suitable container, or a space in a garden if available.
  Potting mix or soil.
  Good, properly lighted growing space where the plants can be kept.
  Seeds, 3 each; Beans are most common, radish and carrot could be eaten sooner.  Others could also be used including flowers.

  Read the background for teachers.
  It is the teacher's choice, one setup per student (preferred), one per team, one for the whole class.
  Make materials readily available to students.  For younger students, or for convenience of the teacher, it may be a good idea
  to have the pots (cups) already filled and ready for the seeds.

Introduction by the teacher:
  This needs to be adjusted by the teacher, to the knowledge and ability levels of  the particular students.
  Make sure that students understand what they are to do.

  Students prepare their pots if necessary.
  Students plant three seeds in the soil.
  Students water the seeds. (Teacher may need to check that seeds are not pressed all the way to the bottom, or drowned.)

Recording data:
  Make the first entry in the observation log.  Describe what has been done.  Include description of  seed (and drawing?).

Clean up:
  Place pots in the growing area.
  Clean and straighten up the work area.
  Prepare for the next assignment.

============== Continuation of the Activity, daily observation ================

Level one:
At the appropriate time the teacher says, "Let's check on our plants and see if there are any changes, or if they need water."
Students look at their plants and water if appropriate.
The teacher then leads a directed discussion.  "You're right, it looks like there are no changes yet.  We have to be patient, it takes time for plants to grow."  Or for clarification,  " Bigger in what way?  Taller? Thicker? Wider?  Heavier?"

Write the observation log entry.

Level two:
The teacher directs observation and directed discussion as in level one.

Students write the observation log entry, recording changes both with written descriptions and drawings.

Level three:
The students independently observe and care for their plants.
The students make the entry in their observation logs.  Including descriptions with measurements (height, number of leaves, or other appropriate data) and drawings.

The teacher leads a class discussion of their findings.

Level four:
The same as level three.
The students plot their data on line graphs.
The results for the class are averaged and plotted on a line graph for the duration of the activity.
The students should be able to answer questions such as, "Are all the leaves about the same shape?  How long does it take for a leaf to grow to full size?"

Teacher's Background

I am convinced that every student should have the experience of planting and tending seeds and watching the plants grow, more than once.  The response to the student who says, "We did that last year!" is, "Good, then you ready for the more advanced parts of this activity which you were not able to do last year."
If teachers in lower grades are having students grow seeds, try to have a different kind of seed.  If time and space permit, pea, carrot, tomato, and radish, provide an edible reward.

As with any activity, it is important that the teacher try the activity first.  This is also a good idea when trying a different kind of seed.  This will give the teacher more confidence in responding to the student who insists, "My seeds are dead, they haven't done anything."

It is also a good idea to check the calendar to see what vacations and other special events may interrupt the observations at critical points.

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