Around the same time I was starting my own garden, we grew some plants in the first grade class I assist in. Planting seeds is an awesome activity for kids. It’s a great science lesson, teaches a practical skill, and it gives kids something tangible to be proud of!
Another classroom assistant and I created a bulletin board on the back windows of the classroom. We used the three panels to display three different stages of a plant’s life. There were lots of other parts we could have labeled but the main goal of the project was the process of planting and observing, so we kept it simple.
The teacher guided the students in “planting” their seeds in plastic baggies with wet cotton balls (they used some sort of grass seed). We had them seal the bags to allow the seeds to germinate. The bags were all labeled with the kids’ names and taped either to the windows or to the filing cabinet near the windows. On another day, we showed the kids how to plant seeds in soil in little paper cups.
This is why this activity works so well: every morning, the kids were pumped to see how much their seeds had grown. They ran to the windows as soon as the classroom doors opened to compare whose plants were tallest.
They were quick to figure out that the “filing cabinet seeds” were growing faster than the “window seeds.” We had a discussion and wrote down the kids’ hypotheses as to why that was. (I think it was because it was getting quite cold at night so the window seeds were not always warm enough to germinate and grow.)
Each day, the kids wrote about their plants’ progress on their grow logs. Younger kids can draw a picture each day, and older kids can work on ruler skills to measure and record their plants’ height each day.
If I was organizing this activity, I would’ve changed a few things. I would have added more opportunities for comparison and discussion. Do seeds placed near the door grow slower than seeds near the window? What about seeds watered every day vs. every other day? You can discuss each of these factors with the group, have the students hypothesize what they think will work best, and allow the students to make decisions about their own seeds.
I would have also had them grow some more interesting plants. Grass or beans are commonly chosen for classroom grow activities because they grow fast, but I guarantee that 98% of these plants get thrown away by parents once they get taken home. Kids can be patient if you make them! Try growing flowers or herbs and pair with an art activity of painting flower pots, and the kids have a great gift to take home.
It would also be great to have a “classroom plant” that the students could take turns watering and being responsible for.A spider plant or jade plant could even be segmented out for each kid to take a plant home at the end of the year.
And I bet if you had kids grow vegetables, they would even eat them. I say this with all the authority of someone who has no kids. Tomatoes, carrots, and radishes are all easy and fast growers.
What are your favorite activities for kids?