Enjoy teaching plants with these hands-on activities for kids. Your third, fourth, and fifth grade students will love them (and so will you)!
Ms. Sneed Wants to Enjoy Teaching Plants
Ms. Sneed was ready to get down and dirty with plant parts! First, to give her kids the necessary background information, she introduced cells and their organelles. Next, she pulled out the unit on plant structures she purchased from Teachers pay Teachers. “This,” she said to herself, “is going to be so much fun.”
Since the germination activity would take eight days, Ms. Sneed led with that. “Okay, everybody, I know you’ve grown bean seeds in earlier grades. But this is different. This time, you’ll be observing germination and recording it like a scientist.”
Ms. Sneed watched as her students got busy with their baggie gardens. As they taped the baggies on their desks, she realized that this simple activity was just as much fun for older students.
The following day, when they returned to school, they ran to their desks to see how their seeds had grown. “Look, Ms. Sneed, it’s so much bigger,” and “Mine has a radicle!” could be heard.
“Alright everybody, you’ve all had time to look at your seeds,” began Ms. Sneed. “Let’s settle down and explore some roots.”
For this activity, the students created their own stems with absorbent paper towels. After they rolled the toweling and taped it, they created three plant types: taproot, fibrous roots, and no roots at all.
Then they “planted” their stems in cups filled with pebbles (which Ms. Sneed found work better than rice). “Ms. Sneed, look, the stem with no root won’t stay up!” called a student from the group by the windows.
“No worries, Ahmed,” Ms. Sneed replied. “I think maybe you’ve learned something.”
After watering them with colored water, the students waited and watched. While groups had mixed results, two findings were clear. (1) Roots provide support and help plants stand up. (2) Roots absorb water and pull it upward into the stem.
The next day, Ms. Sneed was ready for photosynthesis. “Does anyone know what job a leaf has?”
“I think I heard it makes plant food,” said a girl with pigtails.
“Right. Today we’ll watch a photosynthesis video and you’ll take notes.” Without another word, Ms. Sneed handed out the note taking sheets and started the video.”
After the video, the class compared notes. As a follow-up, Ms. Sneed asked her students to cut and paste to show the necessary ingredients for photosynthesis.
That night, Ms. Sneed stopped by the local grocery to pick up a bouquet of flowers. The special occasion? Flower dissection, of course!
The next day, each little scientist pulled apart a flower. Then they measured and recorded the parts.
When they were done, Ms. Sneed went over each flower part and its function, as well as pollination. Of course, there was a little snickering when she mentioned reproduction, male and female parts. But her fourth graders soon got over it. And they wouldn’t forget the function of a plant’s flower!
Ms. Sneed asked them to apply what they learned with a coloring page. As a grand finale, she showed them The Beauty of Pollination – Moving Art by Louie Schwarzberg (4 minutes). Kids oohed and ahhed at the beautiful close-up footage of live pollinators.
The next day, Ms. Sneed hauled some celery to school. After her class put their stalks into colored water, they set up another experiment. Using paper towels, they illustrated how absorbent materials (like plant stems) pull water from one place to another.
A Complete Unit for Teaching Plants
Before the plant parts test, she let them watch some time-lapse videos of germinating seeds:
“Did you enjoy our plant unit?” asked Ms. Sneed.
“Yes!” came the resounding answer.
And you know what? Ms. Sneed enjoyed it too.
Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.