It is spring time and the perfect time to do some gardening. Not all of us have sweet little gardens outside of our classroom to plant flowers with our students. But for these seeds I am about to tell you about, we don’t need a garden.
The coolest part about these plants is that students get an up close encounter of the parts of the plant because it isn’t buried in the soil.
I started this method of planting these plants before there was Pinterest, back my first year of teaching, I still can’t remember how I heard about it, but I try to do it every year because the outcome is so cool and it is one of those lessons that students talk about long after.
The reaction that I get from the students when I show them the bag of popcorn kernels is always fun. I ask them what they think we are going to grow with these? They almost always say POPCORN! This is a great lesson to talk about what makes popcorn, popcorn.
I always start the unit with reading about the parts of plants. There are some great books out there.
Two of my favorites are:
From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons
How a Plant Grows by Crabtree Publishing
Then we start the lab!
Here is how it goes:
I pass out 3 sandwich bags to the students.
We write their name on them and the following labels:
- Bag #1 Light and Water
- Bag #2 No Light and Water
- Bag #3 Light and No Water
What goes in the bags
In bags #1 & 2 we add a wet paper towel to the them. In the 3rd bag a dry paper towel. Lastly, we add a small handful or so of popcorn kernels to each of the bags. Then, we seal them up.
Time to Observe
The next step we take is to draw pictures of each of the bags in their observation books. We make a hypothesis of which plant is going to have the most growth, we add this to their books as well. We do this each day so we can observe the growth. I like to have students write their hypothesis in pen because they like to change them later. CLICK HERE FOR THE LAB BOOKS
This is a great time to have a discussion that it is ok to have a wrong hypothesis. I take this time to teach about hypothesis and why we make them and how we make an educated guess.
Hang them up
I find a window in the classroom to tape the bags onto, and the bags that don’t get light I put them in a back dark cabinet.
Each day, I have the kids look at their plants and write and draw in their observation books of what they saw.
I love having the plants in the plastic bags because as the plant begins to grow, they can see the seed, the roots form, the stem and the leaves grow. They can pick this bag up and actually see the details.
Within about 3-5 days they will start to see growth in some of the bags. It is so fun for them to see it, they get really excited, well so do I actually.
So, what do we do once the plants get too tall for the bag? This will happen around days 8-10. At this point you can send the bags home with the kids or you can transplant.
My favorite way (and cheapest way) to transplant is to use cake ice cream cones. Just purchase a bag of potting soil and cake cones, you might want to have a few extra cones because they sometimes come broken. Then add some soil to the cone and gently (without breaking the roots), add a few of the plants in the cone.
If you want to send the child home with 2 cones, you can, or the students can bring the rest home in a bag.
Once they get the cone home, they can put the whole cone in the ground and cover it with dirt or soil. It is biodegradable!
I had a student one year who planted his corn at home and the corn plant grew taller than he was! One year I had the students plant them at school, the school gardener thought they were weeds and pulled them all out. The students were so sad. Next time I need to put a sign.
What makes this seed activity different?
What makes this way of planting great for in class learning and at home learning is that all students see success very quickly, they get to see the parts of the plants up close plus it is a very inexpensive science experiment.
This year I added a second element to the experiment. We took our plants growing in the dark and after they were fully grown to the top of the bag, we hung them up in the window and look what happened! Another great lesson on the power of sunlight.
Many teachers use their unit with their virtual learners as well because it is easy to pass out the supplies.
If your interested in using this unit in your classroom and want the premade activities or to use with your virtual learners click here for the Planting Unit.
Other Plant Units we Have
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