Planting an investigation

 Written by: Nick W., Alexa H., & Jessica G.
For First/second grade

If you ask an elementary student what a plant needs to grow, it is possible that they will be able to tell you exactly what it needs. However, they may not be able to explain why or provide compelling evidence for particular needs. Our lesson works to get students to think critically about the growing process of plants. This could help students determine the necessary components a plant needs to grow and why.

The lesson starts by having the student’s draw a picture of a plant along with what they think is necessary for the plant to grow. After each student has drawn a picture, they can discuss with a partner and compare similarities and differences. At this time, the teacher will be walking around and asking open-ended questions (example: What materials did you put in your picture? Why? How does your picture differ from your partners? What changes would you make (if any) after discussing with your partner?) As a class, we use students’ prior knowledge, ideas from their pictures, and partner discussions to formulate a list of the necessary materials needed to grow a plant.

Using the students’ list we ask questions to guide the students to think about why each thing is necessary or not necessary and get them to want to test these ideas. (example: Why is the dirt necessary? How can we figure out if the dirt is necessary? If we want to test this, what is a way that we could?) We ask these kinds of questions for multiple materials listed and other specifications like placing the pots in the sun so that the students are making as many decisions as possible. Using the answers students provided, the class will determine four different combinations of materials to test (these are examples of four pots that could be tested: one with just water, one with just soil, one with an unnecessary component and soil, and one with soil and water). Each pot will be placed in the sun (of course, a pot could be left in the dark as well to test light variable). Each day the students will observe and record the height and a picture of the four different pots. After some of the plants have started to grow, have students discuss with others why some are growing while others have not. Have them explain why they think this may be the case.

After the plants have fully grown, the students will have to do a written response of a scenario. Each scenario will be based off of the four different combinations of pots the students want to test. Given specific information such as what’s included in each pot, the students will have to determine how likely the plant is to grow and why (asking individual students to explain this verbally is also reasonable). Plus what things may not be necessary for the plant to grow or what needs to be added in order for the plant to grow. They can use all the materials from the investigation in order to help them formulate their responses. Furthermore, we encourage students to cite evidence or their experience to support their thinking.

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