Days 6-7 What do plants really need?

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SWBAT support an argument that plants get the materials they need to grow, develop, and survive from the sun, air, water, and soil by collecting evidence through multiple experiments

Big Idea

Students will construct a scientific explanation using evidence from several investigations to prove that plants get materials needed to grow from the air, sun, and water.

Lesson Overview

5e Lesson Plan Model

Many of my science lessons are based upon and taught using the 5E lesson plan model: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. This lesson plan model allows me to incorporate a variety of learning opportunities and strategies for students.  With multiple learning experiences, students can gain new ideas, demonstrate thinking, draw conclusions, develop critical thinking skills, and interact with peers through discussions and hands-on activities.  With each stage in this lesson model, I select strategies that will serve students best for the concepts and content being delivered to them.  These strategies were selected for this lesson to facilitate peer discussions, participation in a group activity, reflective learning practices, and accountability for learning.

Unit Focus  

The Ecosystems and Interactions unit focuses on students recognizing the interrelationship between organisms and their ecosystems.  It engages students in understanding that organisms have observable characteristics that are fully inherited and can be affected by the climate and/or environment. Students distinguish structures that define classes of animals and plants, and develop an understanding that all organisms go through predictable life cycles. They learn that organisms depend upon one another for growth and development and discover that plants use the sun's energy to produce food for themselves. They observe how the sun's energy is transferred within a food chain from producers to consumers to decomposers. 

Lesson Synopsis 

In this lesson, Days 6-7 -What Do Plants Really Need lesson students wrap up their observations of each plant's growth and development. Then, students write evidence based conclusions which are used as part of a whole class discussion on developing reasons to support the outcomes they saw with each plant model. This discussion prepares them to write an argument that plants get their needs to grow from air, water, and sunlight. I collect this written piece and use it as an assessment.

Next Generation Science Standards  

This lesson will address and support future lessons on the following NGSS Standard(s): 

5-LS1-1. Support an argument that plants get the materials they need for growth chiefly from air and water.

5-PS3-1. Use models to describe that energy in animals’ food (used for body repair, growth, motion, and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun.  

Scientific & Engineering Practices

Students are engaged in the following scientific and engineering practices

4.) Analyzing and Interpreting Data- Students analyze and interpret the data they have collected throughout the investigation. They compare and contrast in order to discuss and make sense of each plant's growth and development.

7.) Engaging in Argument from Evidence- Students construct a written scientific explanation that supports the statement Plants only get materials they need to grow from sunlight, air, and water. They use their evidence based conclusions and reasons from our discussions to write it.

Crosscutting Concepts

The Days 6-7 What Do Plants Really Need lesson  lesson will correlate to other interdisciplinary areas.  These Crosscutting Concepts include:

2) Cause and Effect-Students make and defend an argument based on evidence that Plants only get materials they need to grow from sunlight, air, and water.

6.) Structure and Function- Students use each plant variable investigated to describe that plants only need sunlight, air, and water to grow and function.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Disciplinary Core Ideas within this lesson include:

LS1.C  Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms

LS2.A Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems


Importance of Modeling to Develop Student

Responsibility, Accountability, and Independence 

Depending upon the time of year, this lesson is taught, teachers should consider modeling how groups should work together; establish group norms for activities, class discussions, and partner talks.  In addition, it is important to model think aloud strategies.  This sets up students to be more expressive and develop thinking skills during an activity.  The first half of the year, I model what group work and/or talks “look like and sound like.”  I intervene the moment students are off task with reminders and redirecting.  By the second and last half of the year, I am able to ask students, “Who can give of three reminders for group activities to be successful?” Who can tell us two reminders for partner talks?”  Students take responsibility for becoming successful learners.  Again before teaching this lesson, consider the time of year, it may be necessary to do a lot of front loading to get students to eventually become more independent and transition through the lessons in a timely manner.


20 minutes

Noting Final Observations

We begin today by noting our final observations of each plant.  I have students examine each plant one more time and record their observations on the structures, height, and color.  

Using Evidence to Support a Conclusion

Here, I explain to students that they are going to analyze all the data they have collected from their data table and conclude whether or not the independent variable affects a plant's growth.  

 Data on Control Plant  Data Table-Plant does not receive light

Plant receives no air-data table  Plant receives no soil


I review the questions they wrote a hypothesis to at the beginning of our investigation.

  • Does air affect plant's growth?
  • Does water affect a plant's growth?
  • Does sunlight affect a plant's growth?
  • Does soil affect a plant's growth? 


I ask them to review their data tables, looking for structures that appeared during the week, color appearances and changes took place throughout the week, how tall the plant grew, and examining their illustrations showing these variations and differences. As they analyze each data table separately, the students draw an evidence based conclusion by writing a statement  that depicts their thinking by starting with the sentence starter: Based on my data, I conclude ____________________________________.  I instruct students to continue the statement based on information and the data they collected throughout the investigation. Student write a concluding sentence that relates to their original test question.  

This process continues for each independent variable set up at the start of the multi-day lesson.  After writing a concluding sentence for each investigation the students planned and performed, I tell them we are reconvening as a whole class to share the conclusions made by one another.


15 minutes

Sharing Evidence Based Conclusions and Developing Reasons

I call on each group to share a conclusion aloud

Plant received no air  Evidence based conclusion-soil

  Evidence based conclusion-sun Evidence based conclusion-water

 Then, as a class,  we enter into a discussion.  I use questions like: 

  • Did removing a plant from the light stop it from growing? Why or Why not?
  • Did keeping a plant in a bag so it did not get air, affect the plant's growth? Explain
  • Did not giving a plant water, affect the plant's growth? Explain
  • Did not having soil prevent the plant from growing? Why or Why not?


By asking these questions, I am leading them into developing reasons as whether or not a plant needs water, air, sunlight, soil, to obtain nutrients to grow.  I want them start rationalizing their thinking so they can prepare a written argument that plants get their materials to grow mostly from air, water, and sunlight. (not soil).

Our discussion focused on the fact most plants grew even with a missing material.  We talked about our control plant, which received all ingredients. Students quickly noted this plant had the most growth and most developed structures. Then we discussed the plant that received no sunlight. All the students were amazed at several things regarding this plant. First, its size. Even without sunlight, this plant great extremely tall. One group noted its height to be 12 inches high. Then we noted that while the plant grew very tall, it did not have color.  Its stem was solid white. Since we learned during our photosynthesis lesson that sunlight helps plants make its chlorophyll, leaving it the white color. I asked them, "if it didn't have sunlight to perform photosynthesis to make food for itself, then how did the plant grow? Many ponder over this question, so I asked them to think back to our seed dissect and consider the parts we found inside. We came to the conclusion that it was able to live off of the stored food from the seed.  Other students also noted that this plant did not have an other structural parts like multiple leaves to it like our control plant.  We inferred that it grew so tall because it was trying to seek out light.  

Next, we talked about the plant that did not receive soil. Students pointed out that the seed in the water, sun, and air, still germinated. They shared how the seeds in the water showed tiny roots popping out, which indicated water does make a difference in a growing plant. This led into our conversations on the plant that did not receive water while the others did. Students quickly recognize that the seed that did not receive water never germinated and nothing happend while in the soil. We determined that soil is not a necessity for plants to grow.

Finally, we talk about the plant sealed in the bag with no air. There was a lot of conversation centered on this plant because it grew! Many students identified that the bag become an ecosystem and that the water cycle took place inside, allowing the plant to grow. Student share that the water cycle and photosynthesis helped the plant survive and still grow.  The water cycle helped it still receive water which was used for photosynthesis.

At the end of our discussion, we concluded that plants need air, sunlight, and water to grow and soil was not.


Elaborate / Evaluate

25 minutes

Applying the Data to Construct  a Written Argument

I hand out lined paper and direct students to the board.  I write the statement:

 Plants only get materials they need to grow from sunlight, air, and water.

and ask them to write it at the top of their paper. I explain to them they are writing a scientific explanation that supports this statement posted. I remind them a good scientific explanation includes data as evidence to validate this type of thinking; therefore, they need to consider data from the investigations they did.

Students work on their explanations for the remainder of class time. While they work, I move around the room monitoring their progress. At the end of class, students take the assignment home and complete it for homework. The next day I collect it for assessment.

This type of writing is still an ongoing practice for my students. I stair-cased this assignment by having them write evidence based conclusions before writing this essay. They have been working on claim, evidence writing all year which is how many of them wrote their argument. They still struggle with really developing the reasons which indicates I need to provide them with more guided opportunities and models. They have made progress since the start of the school year, so I am satisfied with their assignment overall.