Activity 1: Life Cycles to Learn by
Associated Lesson Topics:
- Introduction to life cycles
- Plant growth
- Sexual reproduction/pollination
- Seed dispersal
- Plant requirements
Planting the Seed...
What can you tell me about seeds? Do you think that all seeds
look the same? After we plant a seed, what is the first thing you think
we will see? What image does the word "plant" conjure up? How many different
parts of the plant can you name? What do think each one of these parts
does? How can we determine whether growth is taking place? Before
you begin this activity, have students draw a picture of a generic plant.
This picture will represent some of their current conceptions about plants.
Comparing this drawing with those produced throughout this activity can
provide an opportunity to address certain naive conceptions that students
A great way to introduce the plant life cycle to your students
is to frame your lessons around the developmental life stages (from seed
to seed) of a plant you grow. When the seed germinates, germination is
the lesson topic. When the seedling gets taller, the lesson topic is plant
growth, and so on. Whether you are growing the plants in the classroom
or in the garden, each student can have his or her own plant to adopt.
Inside, students can label their pots and keep their plants at their desks
for part of the day. Explain to your students that if they keep their
plants at their desks all day, they will be depriving them of
a necessary resource-light. Outside, students can place decorated popsicle
sticks in the soil to identify their plants. Either way, students become
attached to their plants and more interested in the plant's daily
activities. In addition to learning about the life cycle, the students
also learn about the needs of the plant. At the end of the life cycle
unit, students can take their plants home. Alternatively, the plants or
plant products can be sold to generate revenue for additional gardening
activities or supplies.
- Plant seeds: bean, sunflower, or pea seeds if you want visible fruits;
Otherwise, marigold, nasturtium, or daisy seeds will work well.
- Planting materials.
- Garden: Popsicle sticks and paint.
Each week, students make observations of their plants. The observations
can include drawings, measurements, or detailed notes. They can do this
individually in their journals or as a class on a large piece of chart
paper. The purpose of these observation periods is for students to record
and understand the changes that are taking place in their plants over
Observations to be recorded
First true leaf
Fruit with ripened seeds
Associated lesson topics
Diversity, Embryonic plant
If the above activity seems too time-consuming to fit into your schedule,
try this alternative: Sow seeds at 2-week intervals over a period of 12
weeks and examine many, if not all, of the life cycles in a single lesson
or week. Although we recommend introducing the stages of the life cycle
over a longer period (as in the above activity), the same observations
can be made in both activities.
Harvesting the Crop...
What does a plant need to grow? What is the effect on the
plant if we alter certain growing conditions? Students can experiment
with different growing conditions and investigate how these affect the
plant during different life stages. For example,
What is the effect on growth when the plant is exposed to:
Overwatering vs. underwatering.
Plastic covering vs. no plastic covering.
Different light intensities.
Different types of soils.
Different sowing depths.
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