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        K-2,13+

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        Exploring Plants

        In this media-rich lesson, students observe plant growth by watching a time-lapse video and by growing their own seeds. They identify the conditions seeds need to germinate and consider the role that fruits play in seed dispersal.

        Lesson Summary

        Overview

        In this lesson, students are introduced to the study of plants. They begin by sprouting bean seeds on moistened paper towels and making drawings and measurements of their growth. Next, they watch time-lapse videos that illustrate the major stages of plant growth. Another video introduces fruits and challenges students to consider how seeds can be spread. Students apply their understanding by performing their own investigations of plant growth. They gather seeds by walking outdoors wearing an old sock over one of their shoes. They plant their seeds and observe the resulting plants. [Note: For best results, this final investigation should be carried out during late summer or early fall.]

        Objectives

        • Understand how to identify factors needed by seeds to germinate
        • Be able to describe some major stages of plant growth
        • Be able to explain the role fruits play in spreading seeds
        • Make drawings and measurements of growing plants

        Grade Level: K—2

        Suggested Time

        • Four 45-minute class periods, plus time for plants to grow

        Multimedia Resources

        Materials

        Part I

        • One copy of Jack and the Beanstalk
        • One small dish containing several lima beans
        • One roll of paper towels
        • For each team of three students:
          • 15 dried lima beans
          • Three paper plates
          • Three large, resealable plastic bags
          • One magnifying glass or hand lens
          • Three copies of Cool Beans Record Page PDF Document

         

        Part II

         

        Part III

         

        Part IV

        • For each team of three students:
          • One sock
          • One shoebox
          • One plastic bag
          • One pair of scissors
          • Potting soil and scoop
          • One marker
          • One ruler
          • One hand lens
          • Three copies of the Growing My Sock Seed Plants PDF Document

         

        Check for Understanding

        • Chart paper and colored markers

        Before the Lesson

        • If possible, arrange computer access so all students can work in pairs or groups of three.
        • Pre-soak lima beans overnight for students.
        • Before class, gather together the materials needed for the Paper Towel Plants and Sock Seeds activities. If students will be gathering sock seeds themselves, arrange to bring students to a suitable outdoor area during class. If you will be providing students with socks that already have seeds, gather the seeds before class begins. (See Step 19.)
        • Prepare copies of all PDF Documents for students. You may also want to make an overhead transparency of each PDF Document for class discussions.

        The Lesson

        Part I: Cool Beans

        1. Begin the lesson by assembling the class in a large group for a reading. Read aloud the beginning of Jack and the Beanstalk. Stop right after Jack receives the magic beans. Help students make a connection between beans and seeds. Then pass around the dish of beans and discuss the following questions. Record students' ideas on the board or on a piece of chart paper as you go.

        1. Do you think these beans are real or magic?
        2. Do you think the beans are like seeds? Why or why not?
        3. Do you think that plants can grow from the beans?

        2. Write the question, "Can plants grow from beans?" on a piece of chart paper and post it in the classroom. Then have students view the Paper Towel Plants QuickTime Video.

        3. Invite students to try to grow plants from beans themselves. Divide the class into teams of three students and provide the necessary materials. Explain that each team will make a set of paper towel plants for each teammate. Walk around the room and help the student teams assemble their paper towel plants as shown in the video.

        4. Instruct the teams to place their three paper towel plants in three different locations around the room. Suggest that they pick locations that will tell them something about what conditions seeds need to germinate (such as different kinds of light or temperature).

        5. Hand out the Cool Beans Record Page PDF Document and ask students to fill it out. Explain that they should use a pencil to draw what they see now, and what they think the beans will look like when the investigation is done. They should make their drawings big enough so that they fill the space. If students haven't had experience making observational drawings, you may want to demonstrate using a different object, such as a piece of popcorn.

        6. After students have finished writing, ask them to share with their teammates what they expect to happen to their beans.

        7. Provide each student with a soaked lima bean. Instruct students to open their beans and observe the parts they see inside. Then ask students to list the parts that they see. Guide the discussion to bring out the following parts:

        • Seed coat
        • Cotyledons
        • Tiny leaves
        • Tiny root-like structure
        • Seed coat

        Ask students what ideas they have about the functions of each part of the bean. Make a drawing that incorporates these features and post it in the classroom.

        8. Allow teams to observe their beans for several days and to add water to them as necessary. Each day, students should make observations, draw their beans, and make measurements. Instruct students to:

        1. Write the date (Day 1, Day 2, etc.) for each round of observations.
        2. Write a new question each day based on that day's observations and measurements.

        9. After the beans have sprouted, ask students to share their drawings and measurements with the class. Discuss the following questions:

        1. How do your drawings help answer the question, "Can plants grow from beans?"
        2. What new idea do you have about seeds or growing plants?
        3. How is this idea different from what you thought before?
        4. What new questions do you have?

        Part II: Growing Up

        10. Write the question, "How do plants grow?" on a piece of chart paper and ask students to share their ideas based on their observations. Write student responses on the chart paper. Guide the discussion to bring out that all of their beans followed a similar sequence of events. Write this sequence on the chart paper.

        11. Next, ask students, "What do plants need to grow?" Guide the discussion to bring out that the seed starts out with its own food. Students may have noticed that when their seeds germinated, the cotyledons shrank as the leaves grew bigger. Use this discussion as an opportunity to describe the importance of sunlight and soil to plants. Explain that after the food contained in the seed runs out, the young plant needs to use its leaves and sunlight to make more food. The plant obtains water and nutrients from the soil using its root system.

        12. Explain that some plants grow to become adults in just weeks or months, while others may take years (just as people do). This growth happens so slowly that we don't notice it as it happens. Time-lapse photography however, allows us to see this growth in a matter of seconds. Give each student a copy of the How Do Plants Grow? PDF Document. Explain that they will now watch a short video of time-lapse photography that shows the important life stages of plant growth. Instruct students to use the handout to describe three examples from the video that show different stages of plant growth. Their descriptions should include drawings and the names of the plant parts that they saw. Then have students watch the From Seed to Flower QuickTime Video several times as needed until they have completed the handout.

        13. Conclude the activity with a class discussion. Ask students how the video in Step 12 helped them to answer the question, "How do plants grow?" Also discuss the following questions:

        1. What new idea(s) do you have about seeds or growing plants?
        2. How is this idea or ideas different from what you thought before?

        Part III: Fruit Wrappers

        14. Begin the next activity by reminding students that plants cannot move around like animals can. Write the question, "How do plants spread from one area to another?" on a piece of chart paper and post it in the classroom. Ask students to think of ways that seeds can move away from the plant. Record their answers on the board or on a piece of chart paper.

        15. Show students an apple and ask them, "What is inside the apple?" Guide the discussion to bring out that the apple contains seeds.

        16. Explain to students that they will watch a short video that shows how fruits can spread plant seeds. Give each student a copy of the Fruit Wrappers PDF Document. Ask students to answer the questions on the handout as they watch the Fruit Wrappers QuickTime Video. Explain that these questions refer to the fruits shown in the video. Have students watch the video several times as needed until they have completed the handout.

        17. Conclude the activity with a class discussion. Ask students how the video helped them to answer the question, "How do plants spread from one area to another?" Also discuss the following questions:

        1. What new idea(s) do you have about seeds or fruits?
        2. How is this different from what you thought before?
        3. Why do you think that it might be helpful for a plant to start growing some distance away from its parent plant?

        Part IV: Applying Knowledge

        18. Explain to students that they are now ready to use seeds to grow their own plants. Show students the Sock Seeds QuickTime Video. Then display the chart paper from Part III that summarizes the ways in which students thought that seeds could be dispersed. Ask students if watching the video gave them any other ideas about how seeds can move away from the parent plant. Did the seeds from different socks all look the same? Why or why not?

        19. [Note: For best results, this investigation should be carried out during late summer or early fall.] Invite students to try to grow their own plants from sock seeds. Divide the class into teams of three students. Explain that each team will grow plants from one sock, and provide them with the necessary materials. If possible, take students to an outdoor area with plants where they can walk around and collect their own sock seeds. Students should wear the sock over one of their shoes to protect their feet while outdoors. If it is not possible to take students to gather their own sock seeds, visit an outdoor area before the lesson to gather the sock seeds yourself (one per group of students).

        20. After students have collected their sock seeds, ask them to look at the different kinds of seeds they collected and predict how many different kinds of plants they might grow. Then help student teams plant their sock seeds as shown in the video. Once the sock seeds are planted, instruct the teams to place their shoeboxes in a location that is exposed to sunlight.

        21. Hand out the How Do Plants Grow? PDF Document and ask students to use a pencil to draw what they see now, and what they think the plants will look like when the investigation is done. As with the Cool Beans Record Page, they should make their drawings big enough to fill the space.

        22. Allow teams to observe their sock seeds for at least two weeks, watering the seeds as needed. Students should make drawings and measurements of their seeds each time they make observations. As before, instruct students to:

        1. Write the date (Day 1, Day 2, etc.) for each round of observations.
        2. Write a new question each day based on that day's observations and measurements.

        23. Ask students if the appearances of their seedlings support or refute their predictions about how many different kinds of seeds they planted. If their predictions were not supported, why do they think that is the case?

        24. Conclude the activity with a discussion about seed dispersal. Have students summarize their ideas by referring to the list on the chart paper. Discuss how the structure of seeds is related to their method of dispersal. For example, some are designed to be carried by the wind, while others have barbs that help them attach to passing animals. Ask students if they can think of any other examples of seed dispersal.

        Check for Understanding

        Organize the class into teams of three students. Provide each team with two sheets of chart paper and colored markers.

        1. Instruct the teams to use the first piece of chart paper to create a picture story that illustrates how a lima bean develops into a plant. Students should use words to enhance their descriptions and label any parts that they feel are important to the story.
        2. Instruct the teams to use the second piece of chart paper to create a picture story that illustrates how a seed contained in a fruit can move to another location and start a new plant. They should illustrate as many different ways of seed dispersal as they can. Teams should use words and labels to identify important structures and to convey actions.

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