It Starts With a Seed…

7 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


Students will be able to determine the best germination environment for a seed by selecting and building a seed germination device and observing the growth of a pumpkin seed.

Big Idea

Selecting their own germination environment allows students a chance to plan and carry out their own investigation.


15 minutes

Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.

In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.”

By saying “walking feet” I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.

When all of the students are seated on their dot in the rug area I tell the students they are going to watch a short video clip about the lesson topic for today.

“Room 203 I want you to watch the video closely to observe the changes we see and be prepared to discuss what you observe.”

Watching a seed germinating

Make sure you have the video clip already loaded so you do not lose valuable instruction time and also your audience’s attention.

After the video clip is over I ask, “Can anyone give me a scientific explanation of what we just observed?”

We discuss what we observed noting the emerging leaves and the difference between the types of leaves as the seedling grows. I make sure I use the words “germination” and “cotyledon” so the students are introduced to the correct scientific vocabulary.

"When you observed the seed growing and the scientific term for that is "germinate." So if we see a seed begin to grow we call that "germination." Those first leaves we saw are commonly called seed leaves, but their scientific name is "cotyledons." So when you see the first leaves emerge from the ground, those are the "cotyledons."" 

"Now I want you to watch this short video clip of radish seeds germinating.”

The reason I use the two video clips is because the first focuses on the leaves and the second shows more of the root action. The students can watch the leaves and be introduced to the correct terminology and then we can discuss root action.  

After the video clip is over I ask, “Can anyone give me a scientific explanation of what we just observed?”

We discuss what we observed noting the fact that the roots actually emerge from the seed before the shoot. I like to point out the fact that two of the seeds did not sprout at all and we discuss why that might be.

“Did anyone notice the difference between the cotyledon’s and the first true leaves?”

I select a student who is following the correct classroom protocol of raising their hand to respond.

“Great response Adam; I noticed the true radish leaves had a more jagged edge too. You had to watch very closely in order to see it.”

“When I say “Go” I want you all to stand up and find a space on the rug where you can move without bumping into another person. Bodies in control, go.” I make sure to say “Bodies in control,” because this helps students to remember to keep their actions and motions in their control. The students know that when they do not act in control of their body I will take over and they will have to sit out for a few minutes until they agree to get control of their body’s actions.

“Now I want you to act like a seed buried in the soil. You are a tiny seed all tucked up in your seed coating. You decide what that looks like and feels like. ”

“I am walking around watering the soil that covers you. Now I see the sun coming up and it warms the soil around you. What do you begin to do? No need to talk, just act it out.”

“The days are passing. There is plenty of light and moisture what do you look like now?”

By now you should see the students acting as plants in the sunlight.

“Wow, I see a lot of plants growing in my garden. I think I will have a wonderful garden this year which will provide me with food and beautiful flowers; thank you plants.”

I have the students take a seat back on the rug by singing the “Spot on your Dot” song.

When you have students act out an event you do two things. Firstly you engage your kinesthetic learners and secondly the movement helps students comprehend the information. 


I use these video clips, discussion, and acting activity to engage my students’ attention, elicit prior knowledge and provide the students with some appropriate vocabulary. 


45 minutes

Show the students the cover of the book Life Cycle of a Pumpkin by Ron Fridell and Patricia Walsh.

“Today’s book is called Life Cycle of a Pumpkin and it is written by Ron Fridell and Patricia Walsh.”

I open the book to the table of contents.

“Ahh I see here there is a table of contents. What does this tell me about the book?”

I select a student who is following the correct classroom protocol of raising their hand to respond to the prompt.

“Yes Camden I agree; this book is a non-fiction book. Scientists will often refer to non-fiction books to get information about a topic. I can use the table of contents to find specific information about a question I may have. Using the table of contents can anyone tell me where we will find the information about seeds?”

I select another student to respond.

“Great work Ashley; page 3 is where we will find information about pumpkin seeds. Keep your scientific eyes and ears open for information about seeds on that page.”

Now I go ahead and read the book. I use this book in my lesson because it explains how the life cycle of the pumpkin begins with a seed which connects to our thematic unit.  


When the book is over I tell the students, “We are going to be working on answering the question, “Which setting allows a pumpkin seed to germinate the fastest?”

“Can anyone give me a prediction of about how long they think it will take for a pumpkin seed to germinate?”

I select students who raise their hand to respond. I make a record of what the students predict on a chart I have made. We discuss the validity of the times given based on the time lapse video clips we watched and information we have heard from the book we read.

“Boys and girls those were all great ideas. At our seed germination station today you will have a variety of methods to choose from in order to get your seed to germinate. You are only allowed to select one method for your seed. We will put all of our seeds in the same location so that it will be a fair test of whose seed germinates the fastest.”

“We will make sure to observe the seeds each day and record which seeds germinate first and how long it took.”

“The information we gather will be used to determine how far in advance we need to prepare our seedlings for the plant sale in March of next year.”

 “Does anyone have any questions?”


I send the students over to the integrated work stations one table group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. It usually sounds like this;

“Table number one go get ready to have some planting and recording fun.

Table number two, you know what to do.

Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and

Table number four, you shouldn’t be here anymore.”

Seed Integrated Work Stations


Allow the students 15 minutes to work on the activities. After 15 minutes are up, the timer goes off and the students clean up and get ready to switch stations.  

I set the visual timer and remind the students to look at it so they can use their time wisely.


At this station I have the students prep their seed by placing it in the environment they think will allow for the fastest possible germination time.

The students can select from:

  • Plastic Ziploc bags
  • Cotton wool balls
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic cups
  • Potting soil, and
  • Plastic soda or water bottle which can be inverted to make terrariums.

To make this a true learning experience I provide pictures and directions for different methods but I do not interfere with choices made. I do ask questions of the students such as, “Why did you pick the plastic bag?” “Why are you using soil?” “Why are you using cotton wool balls?” etc. 

Students working on their seed germination tool

Students working on their seed germination tool of choice

Students working on alternative seed germination methods

Students discuss their germination tool choice and predict how long it will take


They record their chosen setting in their science journal and I note the “why” for them. I have the students use the date stamp to record the date so they will have adequate time to draw detailed recordings.   


In this activity the students are exploring which germination technique they think will work best.  


At another work station the students sort and classify seeds using a sorting mat and classification card (ELA and math). 

Sorting and classifying seeds


At another work station the students use pumpkin seeds to practice decomposing different ways to make the number ten (math). 

Seed Math

Starting work on our seed math                                    Sample of seed math


At another work station the students are creating a mosaic using a variety of bean seeds (art - engineering).

Preparing to do our seed mosaics                                  Student mosaic samples


These activities provide the students with the opportunity to apply and expand their understanding of the concepts within new contexts and situations thus elaborating on the information they have been presented with. The work stations also give me a chance to incorporate other content areas such as math, ELA and art. In this way I am able to cover many learning standards within one lesson. 


10 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look, listen” technique mentioned above.

“When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair and take a spot on your dot. Walking feet, go.”


Once the students are seated I tell them that their exit slip for today is to tell me what their prediction was for their seed germination environment.   

“Team 203 your exit ticket today is to tell me your prediction for your seed germination tool and give me one reason why yours will work. Remember you will need to use a complete sentence when giving your answer. For example, “My prediction is ___ days. My environment will work because..."

Seed germination samples                                   Seed germination predictions

“When you have told me your information you may use the hand sanitizer and get your snack.”

I use the fair sticks to determine the order of the students.

If a student is unable to give me an answer, they know they can do one of two things.

  1. They can ask a friend to help, or
  2. They can wait until everyone else has gone and then we will work on coming up with the prediction and reason together.


I use this exit ticket process as a way for the students to explain what they observed from the lesson we just did. This quick assessment process allows me to see if the student is able to take information learned in one format and be able to transfer it to another format.   


In order to assess if my students have successfully understood and retained the information presented in the lesson I evaluate each student by providing them with a task the next day for morning work. 

For this assessment I have the students work on answering three questions. 

  1. What is the one most important thing a seed needs to germinate?
  2. What emerges first from the seed?
  3. What is the scientific name for seed leaves?

Some of the students will be able to write the answers themselves with the aid of a word bank. Others will need to give their answers to me verbally and I will either scribe their responses in their science journal or have them copy the responses from a sticky note into their science journal. 

The next part of the assignment will be have them check on their seed and draw what they observe. We will continue to observe the seeds every morning as part of their morning work and discuss what we observe. 

For your information it took eight days for the first seed to germinate and it was in a plastic bottle with wet cotton wool balls. The plastic bag environments were next at 10 and 11 days and the soil planted seeds took 12 to 14 days to germinate. The students found this fascinating as they thought the soil was a better choice.