Two weeks ago, our family moved from an apartment complex to a twin home. We now enjoy the privilege of a private back yard and five garden boxes that are all our own. In anticipation for our garden, the kids and I did a week’s worth of activities on seeds.
First, we went to Home Depot and picked out the seeds we wanted to plant this year. We talked about what seeds are and how they work. Then I took some of the bigger, more easily distinguishable seeds (watermelon, peas, beans, and corn) and put them in a bowl. I showed pictures of each full grown plant with the fruit on it, and then we examined the seeds and made guesses about which seeds might go to which plants. After we determined which went with which, I spread out four different bowls and put one plant picture next to each, and let the boys sort the seeds into the bowls.
In another activity we learned about the amount of water a seed needs to sprout. We took three clear mason jars and put some bean seeds in each. (Any kind of easilysprouting plant would work.) In the first jar we added no water. In the second jar we added a ¼ inch of water, barely covering the tops of the seeds. And the third jar we filled half full. After about a week, the beans in the second jar should sprout, and the beans in the other two jars will not; showing that seeds need some water to sprout, but not too much. The kids had fun checking the jars every day to look for progress.
The boys’ favorite activity was the actual planting of the seeds. We used a seed starter kit, but an empty egg carton (which we have used in years past) could be used as effectively. The boys filled the little boxes with dirt, watered the dirt (they chose to use their sippy cups for the job!), made holes for the seeds with their fingers, dropped the seeds in, covered them up, and watered them some more. Once the seeds started sprouting, they counted the plants over and over again.
Our second experiment with bean seeds was the coolest. It's very similar to the first one, except that the focus is on observing the roots. We took three plastic baby food containers (with lids) and crumpled up enough paper towels to fill the inside. Using a medicine dropper, the boys thoroughly soaked the paper towels, but without puddling water at the bottom of the container. Then we "planted" a seed between the wall of the container and the paper towel. (So you could see the seed through the side.) We put the lids on and put the containers in a dark place and waited. Pretty soon (about 4 days) the beans sprouted, and roots shot out along the paper towel. When the roots started getting crowded, we took the bean sprouts out of the baby food containers and planted them in soil. It was fun to observe the sprouting roots, and how the plant was white while it was in the dark, but turned green once we replanted them and put them in the sun.
The best part about our seed week was experiencing the seeds using all of our senses. Instead of only reading about them in a book, we touched them, sorted them, tasted them, planted them in dirt, and watched them grow. It was fun to make guesses about what they would do. The lessons will continue as we transplant them outside, weed them, water them, and hopefully harvest their fruits (or vegetables, as the case may be). Then, using the new seeds, we can start the process all over again.
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