Free Plant Unit Study

This is a five week, free plant unit study perfect for kids in grades 2nd-4th which covers basic plant parts, seeds, sprouting and growing plants. The unit study can be easily adapted to work for older or younger children. The lessons are hands-on but also include learning from books, research opportunities and field trips.

Week 1: Eating Plant Parts

There are many plant parts that we eat including roots, stems, flowers, leaves and seeds. Asparagus, broccoli, celery, and rhubarb all have edible stems. Artichokes, cauliflower and broccoli are edible flowers. Seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin are enjoyed in breads and on salads, and those salads are full of leaves such as lettuce, kale, spinach and chard. Finally, potatoes, sweet potatoes are roots, while garlic and onions are root bulbs. Bring your children to the grocery store and search for some of these edible stems, roots, flowers, leaves and seeds to try at home. Spend one day for each plant part incorporating that part into your meals. Here are a few ideas.
Rhubarb typically ripens in May. The leaves are toxic. Throw them away.

Peel the rhubarb.
Slice it into pieces.

Boil it with some water and raspberries into a sauce. Taste it. It will likely be a little tart. Add sugar and enjoy. 

Clean and wash some celery then chop off the ends.
Spread it with peanut butter and enjoy.

Read the book A Garden For Miss Mouse. In the story Miss Mouse plants a few too many seeds and her garden grows out of control. So her friends come over to help with the harvest and make a big salad. This is a good book for K-2nd grade.

Stems, roots, flowers, leaves and seeds are all different parts of plants that are commonly eaten. This week focus on flowers and prepare artichokes, cauliflower or broccoli. Bring your kids to the grocery store to search for edible flowers.

Steam the artichokes in water until the petals can be easily removed. Dip the petals in melted butter and scrape the flesh off with your teeth.

Read The Popcorn Book by Tomie de Paola. In the story two boys learn to make popcorn on the stove. A Native American popcorn legend is told and there is a bit of popcorn trivia. Since popcorn is a seed, this book is all about seeds. Make some popcorn after reading the book.

Seeds on Rolls
Purchase some bread rolls sprinkled with seeds and eat them.

pumpkin seeds
poppy seeds
sunflower seeds

Coconut Seeds
A coconut is actually just a large seed. Eat a coconut seed.

As you chew it juice is released. It takes a long time to chew just like other seeds.

Continue eating plant parts until you have spent one day focused on each plant part: roots, seeds, stems, leaves and flowers.

Week 2: Activities with Plants

Plants can be grown from seeds, but many can be grown from other plant parts as well. Temperature, moisture and amount of light needs to be just right for sprouting to occur. Each type of plant is unique. Experimenting with plants can be interesting, educational and enjoying. Here are some unique plant experiments to try.

Grow a Tomato Plant from Suckers

Suckers are branches on a tomato plant that grow at a junction after another branch has grown which contains flowers. Suckers take away energy from the growing tomatoes and cause the plant to get bigger. Many tomato growers break off the suckers.

Once the sucker is broken off, it can grow into a separate plant. Place the branch in water and wait for roots to sprout, then bury the roots in the ground.

Grow Celery
Did you know celery will grow from the bottom of the stalk? Take the part that is normally discarded and place it in water. After a week or two new celery should start to grow up from the base. Following the growth of the top, roots should begin to show. Once the roots show, place the plant in the ground.

Grow Pineapple

A pineapple plant can be grown from the leaves at the top of an existing pineapple.

Trim off the pineapple and place the leaves with a little bit of flesh into water and wait for roots to sprout. This is another plant that requires patience as it can take four years for a pineapple plant to produce a pineapple.

Week 3: Sprouting Seeds

Go to a grocery or garden store and purchase a variety of seeds. Soak the seeds in water for about 8 hours and then place them in a paper towel and wait for them to sprout. Research the best sprouting and growing methods for the seeds you have and try to answer at least one of the following questions with your experiments.

Which type of bean seeds sprout the quickest? Pinto, black, red or garbanzo
How long does it take bean seeds to sprout?
How do orange seeds sprout? (hint; there is a coating that needs to be removed from the seed)
How do coconut seeds sprout?
How long does it take for coconuts to sprout?
What sprouts fastest? lettuce, tomato, zucchini
What kind of soil do tomato seeds like? bean seeds like?
Do garbanzo bean sprouts grow better inside or outside in the spring?
How fast to the sprouts grow?

Week 4: Building a Green House or Planting a Garden

Read McBroom's Wonderful One-Acre Farm: Three Tall Tales. The unbelievable growing ability of the farm sweeps kids into a fantasy world. It's a great book to read in connection with planting a garden.

Growing a garden is one of the best ways for kids to learn about plants. Gardens require care to thrive and if done well, the gardener is rewarded with good food to eat. In the spring prepare an area of land and grow a garden. If you don't have space look into renting a small plot in a community garden. They are typically low cost and readily available. Look into putting up a small fence to keep animals out and consider purchasing wire stands for pea vines and tomato vines to climb. If you and your children are really interested in plants step it up a notch and build a greenhouse.

Assemble frames for the walls.

  Screw them together to form a rectangle.

Consider putting a peak on the roof for water to run off.
Add panels and a vent.

Fill with plants and shelves.


Week 5: Visit a Garden Store

Give your child a gift certificate to a local garden store.

Let them choose plants and seeds to purchase to fill the green house.

When at the garden store notice how the desert plants are grouped together, as are the tropical and local plants. Talk about climate and biomes with your child.

Have your child round the prices of items to purchase and add them up to estimate how much it will cost.

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