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Early Childhood

The needs of plants - light?

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Dianne Spencer Dianne Spencer 1140 Points

Hey there, I am looking for a simple but engaging activity to demonstrate to first grade students that plants need light to grow and thrive. I teach Science Lab and have only 45 minutes for each lesson, in addition, I only see my students every 6 days. An activity that takes time in order to to observe change would be perfect. Anyone have an activity to suggest? Thanks!

Juliana Texley Juliana Texley 1490 Points

It's easy to see plants grow and turn to the light. I have a pot of parsley right now that was in limited light; all of the plants are tall, skinny and leaning to the light. Just having two pots, one in full sun and one away from the window (perhaps in a corner) will make this happen. Then students can observe, draw, and discuss. They can also predict which place a new plant will grow best.

Lydia Cotton Lydia Cotton 2340 Points

Last year when I was a student teacher, I was going to teach a lesson on plants and their basic needs, but i ran out of time, but this is what I was going to do. So I would have four or five identical plants. We would talk about what plants need to survive- water, sun, air, and space. I would take away one of the basic needs for the plants. So for one of the plants, we know that plants need water. I would water all of the plants except one of them, to see if that plant is going to grow without water.. I would make sure that it is receiving everything else that it needs. For another plant, I would take away its sunlight. I would take away one of the plants space and so one. I would make sure that at least one of the plants receives everything that it needs to survive so that students can compare that plant to the other plants that did not receive everything. Have fun. I think the students will like it.

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92326 Points

Hi Dianne,
There is a nice lesson on plant germination and growth in this article:
Lose the Recipe.


How about the 'ole' bean plant in the box tower trick? You place a young plant in a box that has a twist and/or turn in it. There is a single source where light can shine in that the plant can grow toward. Then students can check and see how it grows toward the light.
I would think that it would be fun to set it up and check the plant's progress over the course of several weeks.

Juliana Texley Juliana Texley 1490 Points

Alive, dead or "never living" are great topics even at the early childhood level. Given lots of time and a variety of media through which to respond, you can get very important formative information from this question.

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92326 Points

On that note, Julianna,
Page Keeley has a great probe on that topic:
Is It Living?

Sue Garcia Sue Garcia 42675 Points

Here are some articles from the Journal Science and Children in a section called 'Science 101' (Background boosters for elementary teachers) that might help with background content when teaching about plants: 'How Do Plant Make Their Own Food?' 3/01/2003 'How Does Photosynthesis Work?', April/May 2007 'How do Plants Move?', Sept. 2009 Also found in [u]Science and Children[u]are: 'Editors Note: Plants and Their Partners.', 2/01/2009 'The Early Years: The Sun's Energy', 3/01/2007 'Problem Solver: Teaching Tropisms', 11/01/1999

Tiffany Williams Tiffany Williams 1665 Points

Hi Diane, You could have the children to plant some seeds in two separate plastic cups and watch it grow over time. Place one in a dark area and the other near the light and they will notice that one will grow faster than the other. The bean sprout plant usually will give pretty fast results. You should be able to see real progress with in a month.

Jana Reyes Jana Reyes 2520 Points

Hello Dianne, I seen my cooperating teaching do an acitvity with her first grades last semesters. She had each student plant two different seeds into plastic cups. The first cups were placed by the window while the others were placed in a cabinet. She and the studnets would water both plants the same days when water was needed and observerd them every other day to see the difference. Hopefully this works out for you.

Sheila Falgout Sheila Falgout 900 Points

Hi Diane, I actually did a project with my 1st grade class last year that was very similar to the one described by Linda (Sept. 25 post). I used identical live plants, flowers in bloom. As with Linda's activity, different plants received all basic needs, with one removed. Students wrote to describe their observations as well as drew a picture of what they saw. This was helpful to them as they made observations of the plants over a period of time. The whole class observed and discussed each plant, but students were divided into groups to write and draw one plant. Hope this is useful to you.

Teresa Mendoza Teresa Mendoza 1530 Points

One science activity I always remembered doing was placing a bean in between a wet napkin inside a plastic bag and tapping it to a window. As days pass you are able to see roots starting to grow. This can be and example for students to observe the change every 6 days. Also, you can tape bags in different places (the window to get sunlight and inside a cabinet that gets no light) to observe the difference.

Jaclyn St. Armand Jaclyn St. Armand 2840 Points

Hello, I think it would be cool to give each student a plant and put them by a window. The plants will grow in the direction of the sunlight. Being that you only see your students every six days, that allows the plants enough time to change. So everything the students come for lab they have new and interesting data to record. I would also have students reflect as to why they think the plant is growing in this direction. If you have multiple plants students can even observe the differences between plants. Jaclyn

Serena Dhukka Serena Dhukka 1630 Points

It would be great to go into the plant lesson and plant a bean plant and show students the change every time they join your class.

Sarah Kindel Sarah Kindel 1255 Points

I feel like the lima beans are foolproof, and can be observed and recorded day-to-day. I'm sure you can find a time-lapsed video that shows the bean sprouting and growing, too.

Maria Martinez Maria Martinez 1555 Points

I think the kids would really enjoy if y'all made small plants and put them all over the room. Some in sunlight and others in shade, that way the students can see the difference it makes for the plants to receive sunlight. Also make an anchor chart with drawing of a flower and all it needs, so they can relate it to their experiment.


Peggy Ashbrook Margaret Ashbrook 11003 Points

I wrote a bit about some seed explorations in the Early Years blog--maybe there are some ideas that you can use: Peggy

Arlyne Kotal Arlyne Kotal 1370 Points

Our teachers used small cheap plants and for a week, they sprayed a little bleach onto one and put it in a dark room for a quicker process. They also changed the type of soil; clay, sand, loam, etc.

Peggy Ashbrook Margaret Ashbrook 11003 Points

Arlyne, putting bleach on the leaves might make them lose their green color but that effect is not due to lack of light. If we take short cuts the children are missing part of the process--and we are too! Science explorations and investigations can happen over many days and weeks so children have time to reflect on the changes they see.

Pamela Lopez-Martinez Pamela Lopez-Martinez 1280 Points

I did a project when I was in elem. school over how plants grow in the light.

Sofia Carretero Sofia Carretero 245 Points

Those are all great ideas. I planned for my students to plan bean seeds, and give them all the basic needs that plants need. We will talk about the misconception that seeds are dead. I am also having my students record their findings every other day in a graphic organizer, in order to deepen their observations.

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