Roots, Roots and More Roots

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SWBAT explore, observe and identify how roots are essential to a plants survival.

Big Idea

Let's get to the root of it! In this lesson my students discover that roots are very important to plants and to scientist. How do scientist use roots to help solve human problems?

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 learn that roots act both as a straw for nutrients and as an anchor attaching the plant to the ground.

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.


KLEWS - Adding Root Wonderings

Multi-color Sticky notes

Investigation Worksheet - Roots

Gardening Gloves - 4 pair or students may bring their gloves to school


Dixie cups


Life Savors (or other hard candy)

Pea Seed Roots or Bulb Roots in zip lock bags from one of my  previous lessons

Presentation - Roots

Anchor Chart - Plants

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 roots help plants survive?

Anchor Chart - Plant Vocabulary


15 minutes

A KLEWS anchor chart is described as a tool that allows students to track their learning throughout an investigation, building up to the understanding of a scientific principle. Our KLEWS chart will track the learning about the plants for our next lessons.

Boys and girls, let's look back at our KLEWS chart. Let's reread our over-arching question: How do plants survive and grow? 

Today we are going to explore roots. When I say the word roots, what do you think?  I allow my students to share their ideas.  I confirm their responses. You are right.  Roots are the part of the plant the grow in the ground? Do you have any questions about roots? Are you wondering why plants have roots? Are you wondering what they do? After giving my students a few moments to think on this I ask them to share their wonderings with their turn and talk partners.  I allow my students a few moments to share and I listen in on conversations and guide questions to support our investigation. 

My students say things like:

I am wondering how roots help plants?

I wonder why the roots are in the ground?

I wonder what happens to the roots in the winter?

How big do roots get?

Why do they have roots?

I bring my students back together. I am wondering the same thing as all of you?  Will you please take a moment and write your question on this sticky note?  Once you have written your question, you will come over to our KLEWS chart and stick it under the "What -What are you wondering?" column. 

I use different color sticky notes so I know what questions are about roots (Roots=purple).

After the students have placed their sticky notes on the KLEWS chart, I read over the questions in a whole group setting.


25 minutes

The standard addressed in this unit requires students to make observations and identify how different plant structures help them to survive.  In this lesson my students get to observe and collect data on the important purpose of roots!

For this lesson my students work in partnerships to investigate roots. I ask my students to share the pen and complete one Investigation Worksheet - Roots. I make a copy of each sheet at the end of the lesson so each child has their own copy in his/her folder. 

I have set up a few root explorations that will allow my students to discover that roots act like straws drinking water from soil as well as act like an anchor keeping the plant attached to the ground.


The NGSS asks that students learn science by doing science so for this lesson we head outside to observe roots.  Using an investigation worksheet, my students are asked to pick a weed on our school grounds (I have extra gardening gloves to protect little fingers), push over a tree, observe the wind blowing on plants. We record our findings on our worksheets. Students take clipboards and pencils.


Prep work:  Prepare a Dixie cup with a little water for each students. *I place a small piece of candy in each cup for motivation. 

This exploration is guided. I place a Dixie cup in front of each of my students and ask my students to place their hands behind their backs. 

Boys and girls your job is to drink all the water in front of you but you may not move the cup and your hands need to stay behind your back.  I give them about ten seconds to try this out.  Then I ask, "How did you do? Was that easy?"  After my students respond I say, "Right now you are a plant with no roots.  There is water in front of you but you cannot get it.  You try to reach the water but it just doesn't work.  What would help you get this water? I listen to different responses in hopes that my students will say a straw. I give each child a straw, and say, "On your mark, get set, DRINK!"  I ask, "How is your straw like a plants root?" My students say things like: Roots suck water for the plants to they can survive.  It has helps them get the water from the ground.


In our lesson Seeds, Seeds and More Seeds, we planted pea seeds in zip-lock bags.  These seeds have germinated and the roots are perfect for this exploration. I ask my students to observe, record and label their observations in their Seed Journals.

As my students work I walk around and confer with students about their scientific drawings.  I ask my students to label their plant parts and ask questions like: How is this root keeping your seed stuck in this bag?  Do you think we can take this seed out of the bag?  Would it be easy or hard? Why?


10 minutes

The Science and Engineering practice 8 requires our students to obtain, evaluate and communicate information. By students sharing their evidence and explaining results students are allowed to engage in scientific reasoning. After our explorations, I bring my students to our meeting area and ask them to help me fill in our KLEWS chart.

Evidence: The wind doesn't blow over the plants. We can't pull trees out of the ground.  The weeds are really hard to pull out. Roots help plants get the water that the stems can't reach.

Learning: Roots act like an anchor keeping the plant attached to the ground so the wind won't blow them over. Roots are like straws drinking water from the soil.


15 minutes

Did you say Biomimicry? In this section I ask my students to start thinking about ways that roots have been used to solve human problems. I show my students a slideshow with different root systems.

I read the book: Plant Stems & Roots by David M. Schwartz

In order to develop a culture that encourages student engagement, curiosity and a desire to understand the world through scientific exploration, I elaborate on student learning by allowing them to brainstorm different human inventions created from studying roots. We fill in our Anchor Chart - Plants.


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: "How do roots help plants survive?

I encourage my students to include both illustrations and words that describe how roots help plants by acting like straws absorbing water as well as anchoring the plant in the soil so it does not fall over. I am hopeful that my students may start mentioning Biomimicry in their journals.

On our Plant Vocabulary anchor chart I record, "Plants give us roots."


Have     Need     Give 

seeds    water    roots

roots      soil

leaves    sun

stems     space

flowers    air