Spring is here. Let’s celebrate by celebrating seeds! Plant units are a big part of Spring. No matter the age of your students, there are things that can be learned from seeds and ways to incorporate seeds into skills and lessons you are already working on. Try incorporating some of these ideas into your plant unit.
1.) Plant a community garden: Ask each child to bring in a seed packet. If your school has space, plant the seeds outside for all of the school to share in. If your planting space is limited, pick up some cheap pots and build your community garden inside your classroom, in the hallway or wherever else you can find space. By asking students to bring in their own seeds, you will end up with some wonderful plants you may not have thought to plant yourself.
2.) Cook a meal with food grown by students: Too many students aren’t aware of where their food really comes from. Use this opportunity to grow something edible. Microgreens, sprouts or herbs like parsley, cilantro, mint and oregano can all be grown rather quickly and used as part of a meal. If you have a longer time, consider growing lettuce greens, peas, tomatoes, strawberries or peppers. In my experience, kids will eat things they would never have considered eating when they are part of the growing and harvesting process.
3.) Dissect a seed: Cut open a seed and see what’s inside. Look at it under a microscope or hand lens. Explore
4.) Create art with seeds and plants: From seed collages to photography of newly growing plants to leaf rubbings, there are so many ways to create art using seeds and newly growing plants.
5.) Sort seeds: There are so many different types of seeds out there. From the teeny tiny lettuce seeds to small apple seeds to big chunky pumpkin seeds to large plum pits. Seeds could be sorted by size of course, but also by color, shape, etc.
6.) Seed Packet memory: Buy two packets of a wide range of seeds. Turn the seed packets face down and play memory. You can also explore seed packets for words or letters or vocabulary words.
7.) Plant seeds in a wet paper towel: Help students see what actually happens when we plant a seed by “planting” seeds in wet paper towels. Put the paper towels into clear plastic baggies and tape them to a window. In a sort time seeds will sprout and you will start to see roots and stems.
8.) Draw pictures of planted seeds: Whether you plant seeds in a paper towel, a cup or the ground, this is a great time to let students document the changes of their plants with drawings.
9.) Predict what plants will come from each seed: Some seeds are more obvious – think dried peas or sunflower seeds – but most seeds don’t indicate what plants will grow from them – think lettuce seeds or broccoli seeds. Put seeds into numbered envelopes and let students predict what plants are grown by each type of seed. Then either reveal the results or let students grow their seed and find the answers to their predictions that way.
10.) Seed Packet adjectives: Seed packets and seed catalogs are famous for using descriptive adjectives to try and persuade you to choose their variety of seeds. Let students explore these writings and underline or highlight the adjectives.
11.) Grow sunflowers and track growth through measuring and drawings: Sunflowers grow quickly and get really big, so they are a lot of fun to grow with younger kids. Have all of the students plant sunflowers or plant one new sunflower plant each day to see the visual progression of growth. Either way, let students practice measuring by measuring the stem and drawing the growth they see. If sunflowers aren’t available, corn is another plant that grows tall fast.
12.) Write a story from the point of view of their plant: A great creative writing project is to let students pretend to be their plant and write a story about what happens around them. What would life be like if you couldn’t move around, if you had to make your own food, etc. etc.
Upper Elementary/Middle School
13.) Experiment with the needs of a plant: Rather than simply telling students that the needs of a plant are: air, sun, soil and water, let them experiment with these needs. Have students choose one of the needs and experiment with it by determining some variables. Students can document the changes over the course of time and use their data to create a project. My Great Plant Experiment Project provides you with all of the resources to make this experiment happen.
14.) Price compare seeds using seed catalogs: Like just about anything else, seeds cost different prices when purchased from different venues. Seed catalog companies will send you free catalogs each year. It would be very easy to let students comparison shop seeds from different companies. Great math/science connection!
15.) Create a stop motion animation of the plant growing: Like every living thing, plants grow very slowly. However if we take the same picture each and every day at the same time, we can line them up and see the plants grow. Even better, we can put the pictures into a stop animation video software. Check out this blog post for links to these types of softwares.
16.) Grow bean sprouts or microgreens: Sprouts and microgreens are both very popular (and very expensive) in health stores these days. Both are new plants, which contain a lot of nutrition and both are extremely easy to grow.
To grow sprouts, rinse beans (or grains) and put them into a glass mason jar with cheese cloth or screen over the mouth of the jar. Sit the mason jar near the window. Each day, rinse and drain the beans and replace the jar to it’s place near the window. Repeat for a week or two, or until the sprouts are long enough for your liking. Once they are grown, boil the sprouts until soft, cool and toss with shredded veggies and salad dressing for delicious salad!
To grow microgreens, put an inch or two of soil into a shallow container. Add plenty of seeds of pretty much any leafy variety (lettuce, spinach, kale, carrots, beets, broccoli, etc.). Water daily. Wait about a week until they are about the length of your finger. Pull and eat. They can be eaten raw, mixed into a salad or used to top a pizza.
17.) Research new and old farming methods: Sustainable farming is an important thing for students to learn about. It is not only an important political and social topic in today’s world, but the growing of food is necessary for our survival. Students should be aware of the methods being used to farm. Students could research “conventional” farming methods with the use of chemical fertilizers alongside the “organic” farming methods. Even further, students could compare different organic farming methods. Today’s organic farmers often go back to older, well tried farming methods like using the “three sisters” methods from Native Americans where the beans are planted around the corn, eliminating the needs for supports and the squash is planted in between and it’s leaves are used to block out weeds. Other farmers have developed new, innovative methods of farming like hydroponics where plants are grown in water without soil and gain their nutrients mainly from the fish waste in the water. These topics could be used in a science class, as a current event study in social studies or as the basis for research reading and writing in an English class.
18.) Write a persuasive essay about a piece of the organic farming movement: Persuasive writing is the cornerstone to online writing these days. Students could write an opinion piece for any English, Science or Social Studies class about whether we should have more or less organic farms, which type of organic farming methods should be used or what farm policies we need in place from the government.
19.) Create a plan for a container garden with a proposed timeline and budget: In a Math class, students could plan out a container garden. How many containers would you need? How much soil would be needed to fill the containers? How about fertilizers or compost? Will you need any supports for plants like beans or peas? Do you need to purchase labels for your pots? How long would it take to get a finished product? How much do you expect to get? Would it be enough to cook a meal? Would have extra to sell to others? Gardening can be a real business and students should have time to explore the process and apply their math principles to it.
20.) Grow seeds using hydroponics: I know we think of growing seeds as a childish project, but the project could definitely be stepped up by having students plan out a hydroponic garden, learning how the fish and plants can share nutrients!
How do you incorporate plants into your lesson plans?