National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
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Magic Beans and Giant Plants
3 - 5
Students will plant seeds and make considerations on which conditions affect plant growth. They will design and conduct experiments using a problem-solving process and compare and contrast to understand the parameters which influence the health and growth of living things.
- Teacher Material A--Class Results--one per teacher
- Handout A--Magic Beans Problem Solving--one per student
- Potting Mix
- 4" or 6" pots
- Writing instruments
- Optional: Jack and the Beanstalk by Ann Keay Beneduce
- Optional: Unearthing Garden Mysteries: Experiments for Kids by Ellen Talmage
- Beans (pole beans such as limas or scarlet runners are best)
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
photosynthesis: process by which green plants (and some other organisms) use sunlight to synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water. Photosynthesis in plants generally involves the green pigment chlorophyll and generates oxygen as a byproduct.
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- Seeds are not the only means of plant reproduction. Some plants create offshoots of themselves in the form of bulbs, tubers, corms, or rhizomes. This type of reproduction is called vegetative reproduction.
- A drupe is a fleshy fruit (e.g., apricot or cherry) that has a woody stone or pip that protects the seed.
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Tell your students a version of the story, Jack and the Beanstalk or read the optional book.
- Hand out some “magic” beans (see materials) and ask, “What do you think is the secret to growing tall bean plants?” Explain that although magic may have influenced the growth of Jack’s plants, scientists do know that other important factors contribute to plant growth.
- As a class, generate a list of general factors (light, temperature, water, growing space, etc.) that students think green plants need to stay alive. Label it “All Green Plants Need."
- Next to each factor, ask students to predict what specific conditions they think might result in the tallest bean plants. For example, if sunlight is a factor perhaps students predict ten hours per day. Accept all student suggestions whether or not you think they are correct. If students need help finding ideas, have them look through Unearthing Garden Mysteries: Experiments for Kids by Ellen Talmage.
- Ask students how they might explore which of these conditions would help grow the tallest bean plants.
- What do plants need for survival?
- What happens to a plant when any of its needs are limited?
- How does a farmer apply this knowledge (of what plants need) when he/she is growing a crop?
- How might limitations of nutrients, sunlight, or water (plant needs) affect a farmer's profit?
- How might limitations of nutrients, sunlight, or water (plant needs) affect a consumer's price for the product?
Summary of Content and Teaching Strategies
- Challenge small groups of students to choose one of the predicted factors for growing the tallest bean plants generated in the interest approach (light, water, temperature, good soil, etc.). To test predictions, have each group of students design an experiment, lasting up to four weeks.
- Use Handout A to help guide the learning process. Students use notebook paper to record regular observations. (Younger children will need help setting up experiments, observing, and recording data.) Example work process: Group A and B might each have two plants. The plants in Group A get 24 hours of light while the plants in Group B, the control, get 14 hours of light. A control is used to minimize the effects of variables other than the one being tested. In this example the control is 14 hours of light because plants receive roughly 14 hours of light a day during the summer months.
- Before groups of students set up experiments, have each group present its design for review by the class.
- Have students explain why they predict their particular conditions will improve plant growth. For example, “We think 24 hours of light will make the beans grow taller in four weeks, because we know they need light to make food. So the more light, the more food, and the taller the plant.” Have each group decide how they’ll gather their data.
- Suggest that at the end of each week students graph the daily growth rate of their plant and predict, based on the growth rate, how tall their plant will be by the end of the next week. On the graph, illustrate both predictions and actual growth rate results.
- After four weeks of experimenting, have each older student group present a three-minute “news conference” to the class highlighting its findings. Suggest a title such as “Grade ____ Scientists Find That ______ May Have Contributed to Jack’s Mammoth Beanstalk.”
- Have students use creative summary charts and graphs to present data.
- Encourage other class members to review the findings and ask questions about the nature of the experiment, conclusions, etc. For example, “Why did you plant X number of seeds in each pot? How did you treat each of your groups? What might you do differently if you were to repeat the experiment? How do you know it was not ________ that affected your plants?”
- Combine results from different experiments on a class chart. Use Teacher Material A if desired. Refer to the chart when discussing the Review/Summary questions.
Review the following questions with the class:
- Were there growing conditions the tallest plants seemed to have in common? What seemed to contribute most to the height of bean plants?
- Did any of your findings surprise you? Which ones?
- Did the tallest plants seem to be the healthiest plants? Explain your response. Do you think bigger is necessarily better? Why or why not?
- How did the data from the whole group help give us a better understanding of conditions for good bean plant growth?
Devise an experiment to grow the smallest bean plant that will produce flowers.
Replant beans harvested from your stalks. (Wait to replant seeds until pods have dried, about four weeks after the beans were ripe.) Notice whether the seeds from the biggest plants produce bigger offspring.
Rewrite or act out a new version of Jack and the Beanstalk using some of the new information gained from your exploration. Post these “techno-tales” around the room.
Suggested Companion Resources
- Growing Letters! (Activity)
- What Do Plants Need to Grow? (Activity)
- First Garden (Book)
- First Peas to the Table (Book)
- How Things Grow (Book)
- Kids Container Gardening (Book)
- Lily's Garden (Book)
- Oliver's Vegetables (Book)
- Plantzilla (Book)
- Seed, Soil, Sun: Earth's Recipe for Food (Book)
- The Tiny Seed (Book)
- Unearthing Garden Mysteries: Experiments for Kids (Book)
- Weslandia (Book)
- Farming in a Glove (Kit)
- Living Necklace Kits (Kit)
- Farm to Table & Beyond (Teacher Reference)
- GrowLab: A Complete Guide to Gardening in the Classroom (Teacher Reference)
- GrowLab: Classroom Activities for Indoor Gardens and Grow Lights (Teacher Reference)
- Growing Food (Teacher Reference)
- Math in the Garden (Teacher Reference)
- School Gardens: A Guide for Gardening and Plant Science (Teacher Reference)
- The Growing Classroom (Teacher Reference)
- Kid's Gardening Website (Website)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Agriculture and the Environment
- Explain how the interaction of the sun, soil, water, and weather in plant and animal growth impacts agricultural production (T1.3-5.b)
Education Content Standards
3-LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
3-LS1-1Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.
5-LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
5-LS1-1Support an argument that plants get the materials they need for growth chiefly from air and water.
5-PS3-1Use models to describe that energy in animals' food (used for body repair, growth, and motion and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun.
Common Core Connections
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix (2013) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.