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Lesson and activity ideas for a unit on plants

plant activities
Posted by: teach first

I am doing a plant unit with my first graders now. One of my favorite activities the "garden glove." You need a plastic glove (food service glove -- not latex), 5 different types of seeds, and cotton balls. The children dampen 5 cotton balls and put a seed on each cotton ball. They put a cotton ball and seed in each finger of the glove. Tape the glove to the students' desks and let them observe the changes. They can see the seed crack open and the sprout grow. The children LOVE this activity, because they can see the changes quickly.

less boring
Posted by: Julianne

Here are a few less boring plant ideas:

Plant lima bean seeds against the sides of clear plastic cups so you can see the root formation as they grow.

Start seeds on a wet paper towel and place inside a ziplock bag. Kids can watch the whole sprouting process.

Plant bean (or other fast growing seeds) in several cups. Deprive each cup of one thing a plant needs to grow - one gets no water, one gets no light, one is planted in sand so it gets no food, one is placed in the refrigerator so it gets no warmth. Have students predict what will happen to each cup. Be sure to have a "control" cup that gets everything it needs.

Get three small houseplants - the kind with large leaves. Paint the underside of the leaves of one plant with petroleum jelly. Paint the top of the leaves on the second plant. Leave the third plant alone. Have students predict what will happen.

Start or buy a bean plant. When it is about 4" tall build a maze for it. Get a long, narrow box and cut pieces of cardboard to attach to the inside of the box in a simple maze. Leave a path for the plant to grow through. At the far end of the box cut a hole. Now put a lid on the box so that the only light that gets in comes through the hole. (Be sure to leave a way to water the plant.) Eventually the bean should wind its way through the maze and appear out the hole! Really!

lesson plans on plants
Posted by: Vanessa

I teach fifth grade, but I think you can basically follow the same lesson plan that I do.

Get some good potting soil and some seeds. Pea plants grow especially fast. We planted ours on Thursday, and by Monday they had already sprouted! They also grow quickly.

I have my students use lab sheets, but perhaps you could also put the information on a piece of bulletin board paper. Design a lab sheet which would be simple enough for second grade children to follow. Before you plant the seeds, have them predict how long they think the seeds will take to sprout. They record the predictions on their papers. When they sprout, take the plant to the front of the room and have a reliable child come up and measure it with a ruler. (Kids are too rough in handling the plants, so you will need to do the measuring with the children.) Have the children write down the day that it sprouted. You can record this information on your paper at the front of the room. Continue measuring every few days and record the growth. Note the information on the charts each time. In the meantime, the kids will be fascinated by the on-going progress with your plant(s). They will observe and notice how much they have grown each day. They will also be practicing their measurment skills.

Eventually, your plants will die in the plastic cups in the classroom. Ours began to struggle after about three weeks. Have the children give reasons why the plant is probably struggling for survival: not enough room in the cup, etc. Of course, if you use plastic cups for planting the seeds, the kids can also observe the roots of the plant. They can see how the plant may be too confined within a cup and really need to be outdoors where there is more natural sunlight, rain, etc.

Have fun with this. My fifth graders loved it.

buy plants!
Posted by: Sari

I would suggest that you buy some plants. It really improves the atmosphere of a classroom to have living plants. I am terrible with plants, but I have had great success with philodendrons (you can keep cutting the tendrils and replanting them) and china dolls (can't be separated like philos, but grow into small trees). If you assign classrooms tasks, watering and caring for the plants could be one of them. Students can take them home over holidays if they want to. I was amazed at what a difference it made to have plants in my room. (OK, one year I had a student who ate them , but he was an anomoly.)

If you bought several philodendrons at the beginning of the year and then separated each one a few times during the year, you would probably have enough plants by the end of the year to give one to each student. (How's that for a long sentence!) Would this count as "consumable"?

Posted by: hescollin

I like to grow a sweet potato in water. Students can see the roots, stems and leaves form.

Philodendroms are great. They last year after year after year.

Around Christmas buy an Amaryllis bulb. They grow very fast, a couple inches a day. It will get to be about 36 inches tall. You will need a dowel stick to keep it from falling over. It will get 2 or 3 beautiful blossoms on it. You cut it back and it will grow back again next year. It is amazing to watch because it grows so quick.

We have an artificial tree. It is about 4 foot tall. Bought it at Wal Mart. To start the year we decorate it with plastic apples. At Easter when we are studing animal cycles we hang plastic Easter eggs with yellow baby chickens in the inside. Christmas time we get candy canes and put on the tree. Students get the candy canes the last day before break. Put a string of clear mini Christmas bulbs on the tree.

We also grow "Wisconsin Fast Plants" Do a google search to read about them. You plant the seeds, watch the plants grow, bud, bloom, students pollinate the pretty bright yellow flowers, seed pods form, plants die and you harvest the seeds for students next year to plant. A complete cycle in seven weeks. We recycle our pots and etc from year to year.

I like to buy a Poinsettia around Christmas time, also. They are beautiful. They don't last very long, but I enjoy them during the holidays.

Another unique combination that I found at Wal Mart. Is the Belta Fish and Lily. You never have to feed the fish because it eats the lily roots.

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Posted by: ck

My Early Childhood classroom is going to spend a week on plants. We're going to discuss the various parts of a plant and what their job is. As part of our "art project" we're going to make a flower headband, leaves to hold in our hands, & "roots" to put on our feet. Then we're going to dance "the Plant Hokey Pokey". We're also making up a plant bingo game board with headings of "Light" "water" "soil" "air". We have a program at school that we use to print icon/pictures, so I searched out anything I could that was associated with plants, gardens, farms, etc & printed enough pictures so that the kids will get to pick & choose which 16 to put on their board. We'll make the boards & then play the game.
We're going to "plant" a sunflower seed in a ziplock bag with a damp paper towel & tape them to the window & watch them germinate. We'll plant them later in the year & send them home as Mother's Day plants.
I've also heard about planting grass seed on damp sponges. Someone created their own grass creatures by having the children draw a face on a styrafoam cup (no hair). They then put potting soil into a knee high stocking,knoted it & placed it knot down into the cup. Grass seed was sprinjkled onto the potting soil & kept damp. In a short time, the children's creatures had grown green hair! Children can chart grass's growth, compare who has the better growth, which spots in the classroom has best results, etc.
Have fun!

Posted by: Sarah

Last year, we read "Tiny Seed" by Eric Carle, "The Turnip" (which is also the Big, Big, Carrot) We discussed things plants need to grow vs. things we need to grow. Turns out they're the same, huh?!..anyway...One day we made sunshines where they cut out a circle from yellow and attached rays of sunlight, on it they wrote, "plants need sun to grow". The next day we made rain clouds with water droplets hanging from them, "plants need water to grow"...then we made vine looking things from green paper and they said, " plants give us oxygen". Then we planted a seed and every 3 or 4 days we measured it's growth and kept a journal for each child's plant. We also made a graph where we could compare each plants growth. You can do experiments with darkness, and no water, or too much water, you can do music -Does a plant that hears music grow better than one that doesn't?"
Hope that gets the ball rolling....I've got tons more if you need!

Posted by: tia

You could do some scientific method planning with them--what do plants need to live? light, water, soil. Have them create experiments around these "requirements" (have them come up with the questions)--what happens if they get 50% of the light? no light? red light? instead of water, apple juice? instead of soil, a wet paper towel? (beans grow quickly and are pretty hearty, good-sized plants)

You could have your students research interesting plants--venus fly trap, giant saguaro cactus, rafflesia (smells like carrion), foxglove... How about creative writing--stories from the point of view of the plant, or personification poems. Looking at plants that are indigenous to different parts of the country or world. How about tying plants to the five food groups of the food pyramid. What would life be like without plants?