Friday, April 5, 2013

Seed Investigation

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of facilitating a science lesson about seeds in my daughter's first grade class. Spring is the perfect time to teach about plants and their growth since children can literally watch plants spring forth from the ground or leaves unfurl from tree's branches.

In case you want to investigate seeds with your little ones, I thought I'd share the basics of our lesson yesterday and a couple of wonderful books to support it.

For each small group of children:

  • a baggie with an assortment of seeds, such as sunflower, corn, etc. (I just scooped a bit out of our bag of birdseed, so it also had millet)
  • 1 or 2 large dry bean seeds (e.g kidney bean, lima bean)
  • 1 or 2 large bean seeds that have been soaked in water overnight (Use the same kind as the dried one).
  • colored pencils (optional)
For each child
  • hand lens/magnifying glass for each child (optional)
  • pencil
  • science notebook or paper
Nice Additions:
Plant Secrets by Emily Goodman and Phyllis Tildes

A Seed is Sleepy by Diana Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long
  1. Share the baggies of seeds with students. Ask them to predict what they'll be learning about today. Activate their prior knowledge by encouraging children to share what they know about seeds. Record that information on a chart paper (or board, etc) and save it for the end of the lesson or unit, if you're completing a plants unit.  (Children often come to an investigation with inaccurate ideas. Once you've completed your lesson/unit, work as a class  to review their earlier ideas. Adjust the chart to reflect new learning. Revise statements as needed or cross out incorrect statements and and new ones). 
  2. Read the opening pages of Plant Secrets. Ask children if they know what a seed's secret is. (It holds the beginnings of a tiny plant inside). If they'd don't know, don't tell them, yet. Let them discover it in the next section.
  3. Distribute the large, dry beans. Let children investigate them in their groups. Encourage them to talk to each other about what they notice. 
  4. Have students draw a picture of their beans, being sure to record any important details. Encourage each child to write some describing words about their beans, as well. Depending upon the age of your students, you may want to introduce the terms "characteristics" or "traits" as you describe the beans. (You may also wish to introduce the use of magnifying glasses here. For tips on developing students' observation skills and using magnifying lenses, check out the "Related Posts" listed below).
  5. Share observations as a class. If they haven't done so, yet, encourage students to tap the beans on the desk and describe the seeds again.
  6. Ask students to predict what would happen if they soaked the beans in water.
  7. Distribute the soaked beans and repeat the observations. How have the seeds changed?
  8. Gently break the seeds open (the side with a small light colored spot is the "hinge" side. Use toothpicks or your fingernails to split the seed open from the opposite side).
  9. Ask students to look closely at the two halves. What do they notice? Have them make detailed drawings. 
  10. Draw their attention to the side that holds the embryo- the beginnings of a new plant. (It will only be on one half of the seed). Have them look closely and draw it if they haven't already. Teach them the word embryo and have them label it. (Young children LOVE to learn big science words. Think about how many can rattle off the name of every dinosaur many grown-ups still can't manage to pronounce).
  11. Show Sylvia Long's rendition of this view from A Seed is Sleepy. Ask students to compare the drawing to their seeds and drawings. Do they need to add more details?
  12. If time allows, read A Seed Is Sleepy as a wrap-up. If not, read it as a follow-up/reinforcement on another day. (NOTE: Both of the books mentioned here dig into more than just seeds- they cover plant life cycles-so they can be used in many place during a plants unit).
Are you investigating plants or gardening with your children/students this spring? What have you done? Or, what will you be doing? Please share any tips you have.

Related Posts:
Top 10 Ways to Promote Science Inquiry
Seashell Investigation

On Gardening:
Planting Time
Gardening Without a Yard

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