Kids love science. As a teacher, I love being able to create experiences for my students that capture their imaginations, nurture their curiosity, and develop their critical thinking as they make new discoveries and learn about their world. I want to share with you 8 of my favorite plant life cycle activities and how I use them to teach about plants-the FUN way! These must-try experiments and activities will excite your students, get them writing about science, and most importantly, having fun while they learn about plants.
Dissect a Seed
Show your students where the life cycle starts by dissecting a seed and labeling its parts. Lima beans are a great seed to use. Soak them for 5-10 minutes to soften the seed coat before having students gently pull them apart.
Inside, students can easily see the plant embryo, shoot, seed coat, and the cotyledon.
Keep Seed Observation Journals
Germinate lima or pinto beans and make observation journals. Teach students how to look for and record changes, make predictions, and measure growth as their seeds sprout. Ask them to draw and label simple diagrams to illustrate the changes they observe.
Demonstrate the Power of Pollination
As your students learn about the stages of the plant life cycle, one important question to explore is “How do insects help plants grow?”. The answer of course, is by pollination.
In order to continue their life cycle plants must produce seeds. In order to do that they must first be pollinated. This simple pollination experiment using juice boxes and cheese puffs simulates pollination and demonstrates how insects transfer pollen from one plant to another.
We did this a slightly different (and even more fun!) way while learning about the butterfly life cycle.
Get kids up and outdoors to explore how leaves help a plant get sunlight. Explore a variety of leaf types and how their shapes regulate the amount of light they capture for the plant.
Have students look at leaves from a variety of habitats to compare their shape, size, and outer coverings before making predictions about which leaf types would help a plant get the most sunlight. Ask. “Can we tell how much light a plant needs by the type and shape of its leaf?”.
Once outdoors, students can use their hands as leaves to test their predictions and record their observations.
Create a Plant Life Cycle Learning Portfolio
I’m always looking for ways to add more writing throughout the day. Having my students write short responses to to all of our plant life cycle lessons is a simple way to check for understanding, sometimes take a grade, or to use as an assessment.
Sometimes called lapbooks, these serve as learning portfolios and are a wonderful way for students to show the learning process. After each lesson in our unit students write a short (or sometimes longer) response by either defining science vocabulary, explaining a process, labeling a diagram, or researching a related topic or interesting facts about the plant life cycle.
Kids love novelty and writing in mini-books is just plain fun!
Inside their flower booklets students write to explain how a plant makes its own food, the job of the roots and leaves, and to illustrate and label the stages of the life cycle and the parts of a plant.
Paint with Chlorophyll
Integrate art as students learn the importance of chlorophyll and its role in how a plant makes its own food. After learning about photosynthesis my students were wowed by the fact that they could press chlorophyll from a leaf! We turned leaf rubbings into small works of art by painting with chlorophyll.
One year as an art extension we learned about Vincent Van Gogh and focused on studying his sunflower paintings. That year, we made our booklets into sunflowers.
Identify Causes and Effects
Learning about life cycles and most science in general, lends itself well to identifying causes and effects. Matching the causes and effects related to pollination, plant needs, the weather, and the process of photosynthesis is a fun way to integrate reading skills into a science unit as well as another great way to check for understanding.
Make An Exploding Seed Pod
Plants that disperse their seeds by explosion hold a special fascination for kids! Plants in the pea family, lupins, and orchid trees shoot their seeds from the seed pods at rapid speed. Click here to watch a video of exploding seed pods.
As you teach your class about the methods plants have developed to disperse their seeds try making exploding seed pods! They are a great addition to your plant life cycle activities and are easy to simulate using a 14 inch latex balloon, a funnel, and some bird seed, but it’s definitely and activity you’ll want to do outside!
After watching the video of exploding seed pods give students the above materials and task them with planning and building a seed pod of their own. What they will need to do is to place the open end of the balloon around the funnel and pour a small cup of bird seed into the funnel and inside the balloon. Head outdoors to pop them and voila!
My students discovered a couple of tips to share:
- Blow the balloon up about half way to stretch it out a bit then release the air.
- Pick out the sunflower seeds first. Depending on the size of your funnel, picking out the sunflower seeds helps the bird seed to flow more quickly and easily into the balloon.
These are a few of the fun and hands-on ways I use to get my kids excited as they learn about the plant life cycle! You can find all of the resources and activities I’ve shared in this post, plus many more, in this complete Plant Life Cycle Unit.
Click here to find this resource.
Centered around a content-rich, 9-lesson Power Point, this unit is easier than ever to plan, prep, and teach. Aligned to both Next Generation Science Standards, and CCSS it includes everything you need, with 12 days of detailed lesson plans, to teach an in-depth and FUN plant unit.
See how I use this unit in my classroom as we learn about plants and write about science!
I hope you’ve found some ideas you can use to excite your kids and to teach about plants- the FUN way!
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Happy teaching friends!