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My elementary class and I have begun my most favorite science unit of all: plants and life cycles. I look forward to this unit every year.
There are five concepts that I want to drive home with this unit. First, that everything has a life cycle and what that means. Next, that not everything looks the same when it has grown to its mature state. Third, I want the kids to be able to see the different parts of the life cycle in real time, not just pictures from the internet. Fourth, when we are talking about plants I want the kids to be able to see and identify the different parts of the plant and what those parts do, and finally, I want to encourage healthy eating habits with our plant units.
The first activity that I usually start with is something that will sprout quickly so the kids get rapid results. I’ve done this in a slew of ways, but this year I returned to one of my old standbys; the cup with grass seeds. I had each child decorate a cup to look like himself or herself and we planted grass seeds in it. We did this on a Friday. The grass seeds sprouted over the course of a weekend so when the kids returned on Monday seedlings were already poking through. I had the kids journal their observations and reminded them that it is their responsibility to take care of their cup. As the grass grew, it looked like hair and in about two weeks time the kids were able to give the grass a haircut. They absolutely love this activity! It allows me to show the kids that the seeds don’t look like the mature grass and it also allows them to practice being responsible for the needs of a plant.
The next activity we did was to grow several different seeds in a baggy. I had the kids each dampen a paper towel, place it in a baggy and then I went around and handed out six different kinds of seeds. They placed the seeds in the baggy in different spots. I then had them ‘map’ the seeds by writing with a sharpie next to each seed identifying what the seed was. We then hung the baggies in well-lit area and charted predictions on which seed the kids though would sprout first. Later on I also used the baggies to show the water cycle in action. After the seeds began to sprout we charted the growth of each one.
Finally the kids each got to choose what they wanted to plant in our community garden outside. We planted in several different containers and the kids will be able to take home their own plant at the end of the year and the extra plants will be left for families to drop by and pick from throughout the summer.
All in all I spent about $20 for this activity, including soil and seeds. We reuse the planters from year-to-year for our community garden and I will show the kids how to make pots from newspaper when the time comes to take their plant home. Next year we will also incubate chicken eggs for this unit through our agriculture co-op.
I really feel like this unit allows the kids to explore so many different concepts and to take responsibility for so many objectives on many different levels. Most of all, this unit is hands-on which is perfect for the end of year wiggles.
How do you incorporate science with your young learners?