What makes a plant live or die? Is it water, sunlight, soil, or some combination of all three? Growing plants from seeds gives students an opportunity to experience the full growth cycle of the plant, and to see how different conditions can affect the outcome.
Science is a subject that lends itself easily to hands-on experimentation; plus, there’s nothing more thrilling than putting a seed in some dirt and watching it transform into something else entirely. It’s like magic. It can be easily done with a minimum of space, money and materials, and for that small investment, the students learn so much about living things.
Planting pots – plastic or paper, 3-4 inches in diameter at least, and sturdy enough to hold a growing plant.
Seeds – bean seeds, or some other seed big enough to handle
Potting soil – from a local nursery or home improvement store
Small spade or large spoon, for transferring the soil from the bag to the pot
Watering can or other spouted container
Tray for holding the pots
Place to put the pots – windowsill or grow lamp area
Collect materials needed for planting (see list above). Discuss the scope of the project with the students, explaining the life cycle of a plant at a level appropriate to the students. Have them make a prediction (hypothesis) of what will happen if the pots of soil are put on a window sill (or under a grow lamp) and watered regularly. Write down those predictions before beginning. Mark each student’s pot with their name printed and in braille; students can then practice their braille by reading the name tags to identify their plant.
Go over with the students the steps you will take to plant the seeds.
Put the soil into the pots using the spade or spoon. It might be best to pour the soil out into a separate tray first, to make it easier for transferring. Also, putting down newspaper first makes it easier to clean up after.
Take out the seeds and have the students hold them, to understand their size and texture. Talk about the kind of seed it is and what kind of plant should grow from it.
Put 2-3 seeds in each pot of soil and gently cover.
Dampen the soil with the watering can, place the planted pots in the tray, and put the tray in the sun/grow lamp.
Every few days, check the progress of the plants. Check the soil (with fingers) to see if it needs watering. Discuss with the students how damp the soil should fee, and how it feels if it’s too dry.
Keep track of the progress of growth over 5-6 weeks. As the plants grow, have the students touch the growing plants gently; discuss what they’re feeling, how quickly they grow, how many leaves, etc.
At the end of the project, students can take their plants home to plant in their own gardens.
Experiment with different seeds to observe different growth patterns, for example bean plants and wheatgrass.
Vary the amount of water each plant gets to see if that makes a difference in growth.
Put plants in different areas of the room to see if the amount of light each gets makes a difference.
Take 4 to 5 bean seeds, fold them into a wet paper towel, seal them in a sandwich bag and place them in a warm sunny spot. When they sprout, in about 1-2 weeks, have the students feel all the parts of the plant.
LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
Organisms, and populations of organisms, are dependent on their environmental interactions both with other living things and with nonliving factors. (MS-LS2-1)
In any ecosystem, organisms and populations with similar requirements for food, water, oxygen, or other resources may compete with each other for limited resources, access to which consequently constrains their growth and reproduction. (MS-LS2-1)
Growth of organisms and population increases are limited by access to resources. (MS-LS2-1)