What Do Plants Need?

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Students will be able to identify the needs of a plant by planning and carrying out an investigation.

Big Idea

Planning and carrying out an investigation helps students gather information about what a plant needs to survive.


10 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 ask the students to tell me what a plant needs to grow.

“Can anyone tell me what a plant needs to grow?”

I select students who are following the correct classroom protocol of raising their hand to respond to the question.

I will expand on the student responses by asking students to think about and explain why a plant needs the suggested items. For example, “Finneas said a plant needs light. Can anyone tell me why a plant needs light?”

At this point of the lesson I am only asking questions and listening to responses.


The main goal of this discussion is to engage my students’ attention, elicit prior knowledge and start them thinking about the needs of a plant. 


45 minutes

Show the students the cover of the book Plants Need Sunlight by Christine Petersen.

“Today’s book is titled Plants Need Sunlight. It is written by Christine Peterson. Listening to the title of the book I think I already know one thing plants need to grow. Is sunlight one of the things we said earlier?”

I allow the students to call out the response, “Yes!”

“Okay let’s read on and find out if there are other things a plant needs to grow.”

At the end of the book I ask the students to recall one piece of information they heard from the book. I use the fair sticks to select four or five students to share with the whole group.

“Those were all good pieces of information. Now as scientists should we always trust everything we read?”

I allow the students to call out the response, “No!”

“That’s right. Sometimes we should question what we read and test the information to determine if what we have read is fact.”

I pull out four young bean plants I have already grown.

“I have here five bean plants that we will be using to test if plants do in fact need light, water, soil and space to grow.”

 “Can anyone tell me how I could set up these five plants to create a fair test which will give me the information I need?”

I select a student that is following the correct classroom protocol of raising their hand.


“Okay Harper says that one of the plants should have the dirt taken out. How could I do that?”

I follow the directions of the student who responds. “Alright so I have taken the plant out of the pot and knocked the soil off and now I put this plant in an empty plant pot.”

“What else do I need to do?”


“Jason says I should cover this plant with a black bag to stop the light. I do not have black bag but I do have two brown paper bags that I can use to cover the plant. Will that work to block out the light?”

The class usually accepts the two bags – one put inside the other – as a good way to stop light.

“What else do I need?”


“That’s right Adam, one of these last two plants is not allowed to get water. Let’s make a "No Water" symbol here on the tray where we are going to place the seedling. That will help people remember not to give this seedling any water." I draw a cup with water on the tray and then draw a circle around it with a line through it. This is a pretty universal sign for “No” which my ELL students recognize.

“How about this plant? Who can tell me what to do here?”

I select a student who has not had a turn.


“Colin says this plant is not allowed space. How can we do that Colin?”

“Now when you say put something over it we have to remember that this plant is allowed light. So what can we use?” I will have strategically placed a small transparent container near my presentation in the hopes that the student will see this as a tool to use.

“Great idea Colin; we can place this little transparent cup over the plant so now it will still get light but it has no space.”

“Who can tell me what my last plant is?”

“You are absolutely right Nate; this plant is my control. What does that mean Nate?”

“Well done. This plant will receive water, keep its soil, have all the light it needs and have space to grow.”

Once I have all of the plants set-up I place them on a tray.

Our plant needs experiment set up

“Today I will have the plants at the work station for you to observe and record in your science journal. Once work station time is over I will place the plants by the window at our science center. Each day it will be a new person’s job to water the plants that are allowed to receive water. Every other day we will observe our plants and record what we see.”

“At the end of two weeks we will evaluate the information we have collected through observation and make a classroom poster to communicate our findings with others.”   

 “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 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.”


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’ record what they observe about our experiment in their science journals. I have the students divide their page into four sections. One section is labeled “no water,” one section is labeled “no light,” one section is labeled “no soil,” and the final section is labeled “no space.”

Student sample of experiment recording

The students then draw what we observe for day one. 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 the different needs of a plant by recording our experiment set-up.  


At another work station the students are drawing and labeling the different parts of a plant. They must also add details of what a plant needs to grow. The students may use a word bank to label the parts and needs if necessary (science).

Student working on recording plant needs

Student discussing her plant parts and needs journal entry


At another work station the students are playing “Roll-A-Garden.” The students roll two different colored 1-5 dice. The first dice determines how many plants the student draws in the first pot. The second dice determines how many plants the student draws in the second pot. Now the student counts all of the plants and writes that number in the final box (math). 


Students working on the "Roll-A-Garden" math activity

Student working on her math


At another work station the students are creating a model of a plant using a variety of materials. The students are told that their plant must have the basic parts of a flowering plant. Simple plant books are provided for the students to use as a resource and they are allowed to walk over to the plant part labeling station if they want to check whether their model has the basic parts of a flowering plant (engineering).

Students working on constructing a plant

Student working on constructing a plant

Student discussing her plant parts creation


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. 


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, “Team 203 your exit ticket today is to tell me one thing you think a plant needs to grow and why. Remember you will need to use a complete sentence when giving your answer. For example, “One thing I think a plant needs to grow is …””

“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 we will work on coming up with the information 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 write in their science journal responding to the morning work prompt, “Draw a plant and the things it needs to grow around it. Label.”

Some students will attempt to write the answer themselves and others can have an adult act as a scribe.

The reason I have my students use their science journal is mainly because I am trying to cut down the use of paper in my classroom. I would like to become as paperless as possible for two reasons.

  1. It is better for the environment, and
  2. It is a more cost effective and in using less paper I am able to use my classroom funds to buy other materials. 

I am currently looking into a way I can get all of the students to have an i-pad where they would be able to use a drawing app to create their work and then I can have them save it in an electronic file as a record of their work.  

For this assignment I mainly want the students to recall the most important things a plant needs to grow and share what they learned.  



Over the next 10 to 15 days we check on the plants every other day. I have the students record the results in their journals on the 5th and 10th day. Sometimes it may take a little longer to see results and that is when I extend the experiment over to the 15 day length.