What Do Plants Need?

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SWBAT identify the needs of plants by planting different seeds and observing them over time.

Big Idea

Did someone say green thumb? In this lesson we plant bulbs, bean seeds and flower seeds and observe these plants grow throughout our plant unit. Can you guess which baby plant will resemble the adult plant?

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 my students learn that plants can reproduce and have behaviors that help their seeds to grow and survive.  They observe the similarities and differences between adult plants and their offspring and record their evidence in their science journals. They also will identify 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.

My students will plant seeds in order to determine that young plants are like their parents. In this lesson my students get to plant different seeds and learn that plants have needs that will help them to survive and grow. They observe that all plants come from seeds and as they grow they will resemble their parent.

In the explore section we plant different seeds and will use these plants throughout our plant unit. We observe and record our plant observations in our Seed Journals for 2-3 weeks. While observign we measure our plants and use these plants to address the NGSS plant standards. 

*At the end of the school year we transplant our beans into our school garden.

*We continue to observe our pea seeds in zip-lock bags. My students measure and record their findings in their Seed Journal as well.

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.

Vocabulary - Plant Life


Video: The Needs of a Plant

Plants Vocabulary anchor chart

Seeds: Marigolds, Sunflowers, Painted Daisies, Pole Bean Seed, bulbs

(It isn't necessary to plant all of these different seeds but it is a great learning experience for students to see how seeds grow at different rates).

Potting soil - Seed Starting Mixture

Seed Starter Pots - See the Explore section for recyclable options

KLEWS Anchor Chart - How do plants grow and survive?

Book: From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons

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: What do plants need to grow and survive?


15 minutes

The standard addressed in this unit requires students to make observations to construct an evidence-based account that plants resemble their offspring.  In this lesson my students plant a bulb and another seed of their choice to be observed over a 3-week period. My students will also learn that seeds need sunlight, soil, water and air.

I want to develop a culture that encourages student engagement, curiosity and a desire to understand the world through scientific exploration. I begin this lesson by activating prior knowledge with this fun video.

After the video I record, "Plants need soil, water, sunlight, air and space" on our Plant Vocabulary Anchor Chart


30 minutes

The NGSS asks that my students plan and carry out investigations so in order for my students to observe that plants are very much, but not exactly, like their parents we plant vegetable plants, flower plants and bulbs. We will observe these plants and some will be transplanted into our school garden.

For this section I have prepared 3 planting stations. At each station I ask my students to use a magnifying glasses to observe their seed before planting. As the children rotate the different stations they explore with planting with soil and pebbles.

**We will use these plants later in our lessons on heredity.

Station 1: Planting Flowers -Marigolds, Painted Daisies, Sunflowers

Station 2: Planting Bean Seeds

I found amazing directions for planting a bean seed and flower on this website. You will find everything you need for starting a greenhouse in your classroom. 

Station 3: Planting Bulbs

When it comes to planting bulbs I am not an expert. I planted these ones upside down and while it did lead to some amazing science conversations, I would recommend using this website for tips and pointers. One tip is, I use gravel and clear cups (or glass jars) so we can watch the roots grow.  We measure and observe the growth over 2-3 weeks before sending them home.

I asked my parent volunteers to donate cups and planting materials however if that is not a resource you can use recyclable items like: Milk cartons, Plastic soda bottles, Yogurt cups, Egg cartons (be sure to transplant as soon as they've sprouted) and cleaned spaghetti sauce jars.

After all of our plants are planted we look at planting temperatures and place a thermometer under our heat lamp and check to make sure it is warm enough for our plants.  We begin by placing our flowers under the heat lamp. We place our bulbs and bean seeds in direct sunlight (my classroom window is south facing) on the shelf in front of my window. 

Observe and Record: My students record their observations in their Seed Journals and draw a prediction of what these plants will look like when they are adult plants.

Before Planting Observations - Bulb

After Planting - Bulb Observations


10 minutes

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. My students share their Seed Journals with their peers. I bring them back together and I record the following on our KLEWS chart:

Evidence - Our plants need to be warm so we put our plants under a heat lamp or in the window. We planted our plants in soil or gravel. We spray our plants with a water bottle.

Learned - Plants need soil, sunlight, water and air.

For this next part of the elaborate section, my students use the pea pods from our lesson: Seeds, Seeds and More Seeds

Boys and girls during we have observed the germination process but after that the seeds starts to grow roots and leaves.  Let's see if we can observe this happening with our pea seeds?

Each child removes their seed from the window and using a magnifying glass, observes the roots and leaves growing. At this point all the plants are growing at different rates.  This is a great conversation. I ask my students:

Why do you think some seedlings are growing more than others? The answers vary.

I ask my students to record their observations in their Seed Journal. They label this page with Pea Pod and the date.


15 minutes

The Common Core Standards for English Language Arts asks that students ask and answer questions about key details in a text as well as explain major differences between books that tell stories and books that give information, drawing on a wide reading of a range of text types. During and after our read aloud we have discussions that allow my students to learn from both illustrations and words. We pull out information that is factual and information that is made up by the author. In our discussion we refer back to the book to help answer questions about its key details and the author's message.

I read the book: How a Seed Grows by Helene J. Jordan

I ask my students questions like:

*How is a seed made?

*What happens after the seed coat falls out?

*What do you think happens to the seed? How does it change and grow?

*What do plants need to survive?


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 do plants need to grow?

I look for answers that have big ideas like, Plants need water, soil, sunlight and air to survive.  Seeds can be planted in zip-lock bags or gravel but when they get bigger they need to be put in soil for nutrients.