Let's Dissect Plants!

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SWBAT dissect plants and identify the different structures that help plants to survive.

Big Idea

Let's get dissecting! Check out how first graders analyze, observe and discover more about plants through plant dissection!

Setting the Stage:

National Science Education Science Standards Connection:

The National Science Education Standards has said that making observations is key to inquiry-based and discovery-focused learning in science instruction. In order to do this students participate in inquiry-based learning that allows them to solve a problem in science through observation, discourse and using a science journal. Students will then be give a chance to share their findings with their peers and then reflect on their own understanding.

Next Generation Science Standards Connection:

In this unit students will learn that plants have external parts that help them survive in nature and then use that information to help them solve a human problem by mimicking plants. This is called Biomimicry - bio: life, mimicry - to copy. To learn more about Biomimicry check out this Ted Talks.

NGSS Standard asks that student identify that all organisms have external parts. Plants have different parts (roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits) that help them survive and grow.  In this lesson students will dissect a weed in order to investigate plant parts. Students will use these findings to determine that plants have parts to help them survive.

Classroom Structures:

In order to support a high level of student discourse within my science lessons I have assigned two different student partnerships.  Turn and Talk Partners are discourse partners that work together to share the deep thinking that happens throughout the day.  Workshop Partners are partners who are matched together for the purpose of working during our independent times.  In this lesson students will be engaged in both partnerships.

Vocabulary Cards:

These cards include the vocabulary that it important for this unit on plant life.  The standards covered by this unit are 1-LS1-1, 1-LS1-2, 1-LS3-1. You can choose to use these cards in different ways. I like to print all vocabulary words on card stock and hang them on my science bulletin board as a reference tool throughout the unit. You can also use these cards as flashcards or a concentration matching game.


Anchor Chart - Plants

Weeds or flowers (class set)

Seed Journals 

Scissors and Magnifying Glasses


Paper Towels & Markers

Flower Art - various painting tools (sponges, combs, different shape brushes & sponges, etc), different color tempera paints, scissors, glue, green & brown construction paper, string

Science Journals:  I just use blank paper in my journals so my students have space and freedom to experiment with graphic organizers, illustrations, etc.

Science Journal Prompt: How do plant parts help plants survive?


15 minutes

The NGSS asks that students understand the different structures and functions of plants that help them survive. In this lesson we go outside to collect a plant sample to investigate.

**Depending on the amount of weeds available, I may need to purchase flowers from the grocery store.

I tell the children that today we are going to deepen our thinking by observing and dissecting a plant. I have bought several bouquets of flowers to dissect and investigate. These flowers do not have roots so we will study roots deeper in another lesson.

In our last lesson we discovered different plant parts. Today we will begin by filling in the first two columns of our Plants anchor chart (trees, bushes). 

Today you get to investigate these plants to answer this question today: What plant parts help plants survive? Are you ready?


25 minutes

The standard addressed in this unit requires students to make observations and identify functions of structures that help plants survive in nature.  In this lesson my students get to observe and collect data by observing and dissecting a plant.  My students will work independently to try and identify structures and functions of plants.


Their first task is to observe their flowers. We talk about how scientist don’t just look and draw but they study things by smelling, seeing, touching, hearing and tasting. In this activity the children are asked to not use their sense of taste. I ask them to draw and label what they see while trying to make an exact representation in their science journal.  After they have a diagram of their flower I have students share their drawings with their elbow partners (those are the students that sit by their sides at their tables). 

Observing & Drawing Plant

Observing & Drawing Plant

Observing & Drawing Plant

Flower Diagram

Flower Diagram

Flower Diagram


The next step is plant dissection. I present them with the tools: a wooden skewer, scissors and a paper towel. I tell the children that today they will be dissecting their plant and they must sort all the similar items into piles.

Boys and girls before you start removing the parts of your plant you will need to come up with a plan for how you are going to sort the different plant parts. Please take a moment and think of one way that you could sort these parts. Once you have an idea, please give me a thumbs up.  This is their think time, once I see their thumbs up, I ask them to please share their idea with their turn and talk partner.  Once I feel they have a good plan I send them off to work.

As my students dissect, I walk around and confer with each student naming and noticing the smart thinking happening. Conferring is the process of listening and recording the work the student or students are doing and then compliment the work. As I listen, I research a teaching point and then work to provide clarification through questioning, modeling and re-teaching. I refer back to our questions: What plant parts help plants survive? I ask more prompting questions like are their certain parts that are easier to sort or harder to sort? How can you know if you are sorting these parts correctly? As I am navigating the room I am including words like roots, stems, flower, fruit and leaves.

Dissecting Plant Parts

Dissecting Plant Parts

Dissecting Plant Parts

Dissecting Plant Parts

Sorting Plant Parts

Labeling Plant Parts


10 minutes

The NGSS asks that students communicate and explain information from observations. In the explain section I want my students to observe how their peers dissected and sorted the different plant parts. 

You get to tour our classroom and look at all different ways your classmates dissected and sorted their plant parts. Please be sure to look with your eyes only.

After a few moments I ask my students to meet me on the carpet for a whole group discussion.

Thank you for meeting me on the carpet with your observations.  Each of you have done a really nice job dissecting and researching plant parts.  What did you notice?  Did anything surprise you! You all looked like you were learning SO much stuff! Will you please share your findings with your turn and talk partner?

As my students share, I listen in on their conversations for any new understandings. Then I bring them back together and we record the different plant parts we observed on our Plants anchor chart.


15 minutes

I show my students a matching game with plant parts.  I ask the students to help me label the different plant parts.

Art Lesson:

In this lesson my students explore with different tools to paint, cut and construct a flower using Eric Carle's art style

Step 1: His art is created in collage technique by using hand-painted papers. In order to create these hand-painted papers, my students paint with different tools: Rollers, paint brushes, sponges, spoons, toothbrushes, forks, combs, round sponges, etc. 

Step 2: He cuts out his design and layers the papers to form bright and colorful pictures.  My students cut a circle for the middle of their flowers and then cut out different size petals that are then glued on top of each other to give the flower dimension.

Step 3: My students build their flower being careful to add the different parts of a plant.  You may wish to ask your students to label the parts as well. 

**If you do this in May like me, you can even have the students write a little blurb about how they have grown over the school year and hang it next to their photo. It can be a cute culminating bulletin board.


10 minutes

The Science and Engineering Practice 4 asks students to analyze data. At the K-2 level this involves students collecting, recording, and sharing observations. In this lesson the students are recording information, thoughts and ideas in their science journals. I send my students back to their science journals and ask them to write the answer to our big question: "What are the different plant parts and how do they help a plant survive?"

I encourage my students to include both illustrations and words that describe the different plant parts.