Early Childhood

The needs of plants - light?

Tue May 13, 2014 10:41 PM

Hey there,

I am looking for a simple but engaging activity to demonstrate to first grade students that plants need light to grow and thrive. I teach Science Lab and have only 45 minutes for each lesson, in addition, I only see my students every 6 days. An activity that takes time in order to to observe change would be perfect.

Anyone have an activity to suggest?


Dianne Spencer
Dianne Spencer
1140 Activity Points

Fri May 16, 2014 11:06 AM

It's easy to see plants grow and turn to the light. I have a pot of parsley right now that was in limited light; all of the plants are tall, skinny and leaning to the light. Just having two pots, one in full sun and one away from the window (perhaps in a corner) will make this happen. Then students can observe, draw, and discuss. They can also predict which place a new plant will grow best.

Juliana Texley
Juliana Texley
1330 Activity Points

Thu Sep 25, 2014 11:06 PM

Last year when I was a student teacher, I was going to teach a lesson on plants and their basic needs, but i ran out of time, but this is what I was going to do. So I would have four or five identical plants. We would talk about what plants need to survive- water, sun, air, and space. I would take away one of the basic needs for the plants. So for one of the plants, we know that plants need water. I would water all of the plants except one of them, to see if that plant is going to grow without water.. I would make sure that it is receiving everything else that it needs. For another plant, I would take away its sunlight. I would take away one of the plants space and so one. I would make sure that at least one of the plants receives everything that it needs to survive so that students can compare that plant to the other plants that did not receive everything. Have fun. I think the students will like it.

Lydia Cotton
Lydia Cotton
2320 Activity Points

Wed May 14, 2014 12:46 PM

Hi Dianne
I am wondering if you'd like to undercover some of your students thinking about plants and light before you do an activity.

There is a formative assessment probe [url=http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/9780873552738.14]Plants in the Dark and Light
The purpose of this assessment probe is to elicit students’ ideas about plant growth. It specifically probes to find out if students think plants only grow if they are exposed to light

This might elicit some interesting ideas from your students in developing their own thoughts about plants need for light. Hope that it can be done in your time frame
Anyone else have some suggestions for activities? [/i]

Arlene Jurewicz-Leighton
Arlene Jurewicz Leighton
41865 Activity Points

Wed Jun 11, 2014 6:09 AM

At Lesley University we do a very simple experiment comparing the growth of "sun" and "shade" grass seed. Just put the same amount in two haves of two deli containers of soil. (4 spaces, 2 in each container) I cut the plastic from the deli top to divide the container in half. Cover one of the containers loosely with a box or shade it somehow. (Don't enclose it, just shade) and compare the seeds.

Older students might speculate on the metabolism that allows a grass to thrive in the shade. But just looking at the effect of sunlight is a great way to start, and you get the rest of the bag of grass seed for your yard.

Juliana Texley
Juliana Texley
1330 Activity Points

Wed May 14, 2014 5:11 PM

Hi Dianne,
There is a nice lesson on plant germination and growth in this article:
Lose the Recipe.


How about the "ole" bean plant in the box tower trick? You place a young plant in a box that has a twist and/or turn in it. There is a single source where light can shine in that the plant can grow toward. Then students can check and see how it grows toward the light.
I would think that it would be fun to set it up and check the plant's progress over the course of several weeks.

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
79618 Activity Points

Tue Jun 10, 2014 4:31 PM

HI Diana;
I would start with lima beans and ask the kids if this seed was alive or dead. Then wet them and place them in a small clear plastic bag with piece of cotton and tape them to a window. In days the lima bean will begin to sprout. Do the same with another set of beans but this time put them in a container in a cabinet that doesn't get sun.
Kids that age will certainly get the difference and they can draw the results to help them start making observations.
Just an idea.

Adah Stock
Adah Stock
101470 Activity Points

Tue Jun 10, 2014 10:06 PM

Alive, dead or "never living" are great topics even at the early childhood level. Given lots of time and a variety of media through which to respond, you can get very important formative information from this question.

Juliana Texley
Juliana Texley
1330 Activity Points

Thu Jun 12, 2014 9:22 PM

On that note, Julianna,
Page Keeley has a great probe on that topic:
Is It Living?

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
79618 Activity Points

Wed Jul 23, 2014 11:11 PM

The following website, Plants for Kids, is full of fun ideas for teaching children about plants put together by Delaware State University. I included the link to one fun experiment you can do with the students. It gives a great visual of how the plant works to get to the light. It would take some time for the plant to complete the maze, so it might work out well given your schedule constraints.


Megan Loiacano
Megan Loiacano
1160 Activity Points

Sun Apr 26, 2015 12:08 PM

I went on the website and you were right, there are a lot of fun activities and experiments for students. Even as an adult I would be excited to do some of these experiment. I will definitely keep this website in my list of resources.

Alyssa Dupiche
alyssa dupiche
1360 Activity Points

Thu Jul 24, 2014 6:42 PM

Here are some articles from the Journal Science and Children
in a section called "Science 101" (Background boosters for elementary teachers) that might help with background content when teaching about plants:
"How Do Plant Make Their Own Food?" 3/01/2003
"How Does Photosynthesis Work?", April/May 2007
"How do Plants Move?", Sept. 2009

Also found in [u]Science and Children[u]are:
"Editors Note: Plants and Their Partners.", 2/01/2009
"The Early Years: The Sun's Energy", 3/01/2007
"Problem Solver: Teaching Tropisms", 11/01/1999

Sue Garcia
Sue Garcia
42660 Activity Points

Sat Sep 06, 2014 12:17 AM

Hi Diane,

You could have the children to plant some seeds in two separate plastic cups and watch it grow over time. Place one in a dark area and the other near the light and they will notice that one will grow faster than the other. The bean sprout plant usually will give pretty fast results. You should be able to see real progress with in a month.

Tiffany Williams
Tiffany Williams
1665 Activity Points

Fri Sep 19, 2014 2:03 PM

Hello Dianne,
I seen my cooperating teaching do an acitvity with her first grades last semesters. She had each student plant two different seeds into plastic cups. The first cups were placed by the window while the others were placed in a cabinet. She and the studnets would water both plants the same days when water was needed and observerd them every other day to see the difference. Hopefully this works out for you.

Jana Reyes
Jana Reyes
2520 Activity Points

Sat Oct 04, 2014 11:57 AM

Hi Diane,
I actually did a project with my 1st grade class last year that was very similar to the one described by Linda (Sept. 25 post). I used identical live plants, flowers in bloom. As with Linda's activity, different plants received all basic needs, with one removed. Students wrote to describe their observations as well as drew a picture of what they saw. This was helpful to them as they made observations of the plants over a period of time. The whole class observed and discussed each plant, but students were divided into groups to write and draw one plant.
Hope this is useful to you.

Sheila Falgout
Sheila Falgout
900 Activity Points

Tue Oct 28, 2014 11:20 PM

One science activity I always remembered doing was placing a bean in between a wet napkin inside a plastic bag and tapping it to a window. As days pass you are able to see roots starting to grow. This can be and example for students to observe the change every 6 days. Also, you can tape bags in different places (the window to get sunlight and inside a cabinet that gets no light) to observe the difference.

Teresa Mendoza
Teresa Mendoza
1530 Activity Points

Wed Nov 05, 2014 6:20 PM

I think it would be cool to give each student a plant and put them by a window. The plants will grow in the direction of the sunlight. Being that you only see your students every six days, that allows the plants enough time to change. So everything the students come for lab they have new and interesting data to record. I would also have students reflect as to why they think the plant is growing in this direction. If you have multiple plants students can even observe the differences between plants.

Jaclyn St. Armand
Jaclyn St. Armand
2840 Activity Points

Fri Nov 07, 2014 2:59 PM

It would be great to go into the plant lesson and plant a bean plant and show students the change every time they join your class.

Serena Dhukka
Serena Dhukka
1630 Activity Points

Thu Nov 20, 2014 5:40 PM

I feel like the lima beans are foolproof, and can be observed and recorded day-to-day. I'm sure you can find a time-lapsed video that shows the bean sprouting and growing, too.

Sarah Kindel
Sarah Kindel
1255 Activity Points

Thu Apr 16, 2015 6:16 PM

I think the kids would really enjoy if y'all made small plants and put them all over the room. Some in sunlight and others in shade, that way the students can see the difference it makes for the plants to receive sunlight. Also make an anchor chart with drawing of a flower and all it needs, so they can relate it to their experiment.


Maria Martinez
Maria Martinez
1555 Activity Points

Tue Apr 28, 2015 8:20 AM

Our teachers used small cheap plants and for a week, they sprayed a little bleach onto one and put it in a dark room for a quicker process. They also changed the type of soil; clay, sand, loam, etc.

Arlyne Kotal
Arlyne Kotal
1370 Activity Points

Thu Apr 30, 2015 10:35 PM

Arlyne, putting bleach on the leaves might make them lose their green color but that effect is not due to lack of light. If we take short cuts the children are missing part of the process--and we are too! Science explorations and investigations can happen over many days and weeks so children have time to reflect on the changes they see.

Peggy Ashbrook
Margaret Ashbrook
6350 Activity Points

Tue Apr 28, 2015 12:16 PM

I did a project when I was in elem. school over how plants grow in the light.

Pamela Lopez-Martinez
Pamela Lopez-Martinez
1280 Activity Points

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