Hydroponics Vs. Soil Planting

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Students will be able to engage in research in order to gain information on hydroponic and soil growing methods.

Big Idea

In order to compare and contrast two growing methods, students must come to understand what each require to be successful. This lesson is the beginning of that data gathering.


5 minutes

In today's lesson, the students will begin to explore the question "Why would someone choose hydroponic planting or soil planting?" 

After the students gather, I will ask what they know about the prefix "hydro" and if they have ever heard of it.  I will also explain that "hydro" means water.  I remind them that they might have heard it in "hydroplane" which is a sport here in Michigan, "hydrant" which helps put out fires with the water, and "hydrate" which they know means to drink water. 

Mini Lesson

10 minutes

As a mini lesson, we will read an article titled "Hydro Planting" in the FOSS Structure of Life book together.  During this time, I will model taking notes on a Hydroponics graphic organizer that I will hand out to the students. Please see the resource section for examples of the work we completed together.  If you don't have the FOSS curriculum, you can easily find an article online about hydroponic plantings.

This clip is an example of my students having time to read the text and take their notes.  We will then add information together as a class in the modeling. 

During this time, I also set up a mock hydroponic water culture. To do this, we suspend 12 germinating bean seeds in nutrient rich water. The students and I will then draw an example of this culture on our graphic organizer.

Following the note taking and scientific drawing of the hydroponic planting, I explain that now the students will need to research planting in soil.  I have already transplanted some of our germinating seeds into potting soil, as seen in the banner photo of this lesson. I also give them an article called "What Plants Need", from Cornell University. The article has a nice section on the importance of soil to plant growth.

Active Engagement

30 minutes

As students research the necessity of soil to plant growth, I will circulate and discuss with students what they are finding.  As they discuss with me, I will work to compare hydroponic growing with the use of soil.  My goal here is to help students begin to compare and contrast methods and wonder about the need for both. 

In this clip, my student explains to me his theory of why soil is helpful and what must have to happen in water to compensate for not having something for the roots to hold onto. 

My goal during this session is to give the students information and have them take the time to decipher what might be important in the reading and what they think is necessary to pay attention to regarding the difference between the two planting methods. 

Sharing and Closing

5 minutes

To close, I ask the students to share what they have learned and what they think about the two planting styles.  We will begin comparing situations when each method is appropriate and essential.  

As we were closing the session, one of my students had an interesting question. She asked why the article stated that plants "need" soil in order to grow.  Instead of answering, I had her pose her question to the class. The clip that follows shows how debate in a third grade classroom can happen!