National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
How Does Your Garden Grow? (Grades K-2)
K - 2
Students will understand the needs of a seed to germinate by observing, dissecting, and germinating seeds in a "ragdoll." Further, students will plant seeds in eggshells and observe the life cycle of a plant as they learn about sunflowers.
- Variety of seeds
- Bean Seed diagram
- Hand lenses
- Lima beans soaked in water overnight, 1 per student
- 100 lima beans
- 10 paper towels (the non-quilted paper towels typically found in schools work best)
- 10 pieces of plastic wrap
- 20 rubber bands
- The Little Plant poem
- Empty, rinsed eggshells, 1 per student
- Egghead plant starter example (see picture in procedures)
- Permanent markers
- Plastic spoons
- Water spray bottles
- Potting soil
- Alfalfa seeds (alfalfa sprouting seeds can often be found in the health food section of grocery stores)
- Knit glove
- Sticky-back Velcro
- Sunflower Life Cycle pictures, laminated and cut apart
- Life Cycle graphic organizer, 1 per student
- Dig a Hole song
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
- The Little Plant Poem and Dig a Hole Lyrics
- Bean Seed Diagram
- Life Cycle Graphic Organizer
- Sunflower Life Cycle Pictures
cotyledon: the part of a seed that provides food for the embryo
dormant: not active but able to become active
embryo: a human, animal, or plant in the early stages of development before it is born, hatched, sprouted, etc.
germinate: to begin to grow
photosynthesis: the process by which a green plant turns water and carbon dioxide into food when the plant is exposed to light
respiration: the process through which the plant exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide with its environment
seedling: a young plant that is grown from a seed
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Ask students, "Why are plants important?" Allow students to offer their answers to the question. Direct a class discussion with follow-up questions as needed to help students recognize that plants are very important. Many plants provide healthy food for us to eat. Other plants provide food for animals which provide milk, dairy products, meat, and eggs to our diet.
- Read one of the following books with your class:
Activity 1: Observing and Dissecting Seeds
- Ask students what seeds are used for. Explain that seeds are used to grow new plants and sometimes to eat.
- Allow students to observe a variety of different types of seeds. Explain that seeds come in different sizes and colors, but they are all used to grow new plants. Some seeds are even eaten by humans and other animals. Ask the students if they have ever eaten a seed. What kind of a seed was it?
- Ask the students what is inside a seed. Show the Bean Seed diagram. Point out that inside a seed there is an embryo—what will become a new plant—and food for the embryo. On the outside of the seed is a seed coat. Its purpose is to protect the seed.
- Tell the students that they are going to have the chance to look carefully at a lima bean seed that has been soaked overnight in water. They will observe the seed coat, embryo, and cotyledon of the seed.
- Give each student one lima bean seed. Show them how to rub the seed between their fingers to remove the seed coat. Ask the students why the seed coat is important. (it protects the seed)
- Show the students how to split the seed in half. Give each student a hand lens to observe the inside of the seed. Point out the embryo and cotyledons. Explain that the embryo is the beginning of a new plant. When the seed receives warmth and moisture, it will begin to germinate, which means it becomes active and sprouts. The cotyledons provide food for the embryo until it grows leaves. The leaves will then use energy from sunlight to carry out photosynthesis, making food for the plant.
Activity 2: Germinating Seeds
- Explain that dormant means to be inactive, like in a deep sleep. Active is the opposite of dormant. Most seeds are dormant until they receive warmth and moisture. When a seed receives the correct amount of moisture and the proper temperature, it will begin to germinate, which means it becomes active and sprouts.
- Ask each student to pretend they are a dormant seed in the soil. Tell them that it is spring, and the soil has become moist from rain showers and warm from the sun. They are now ready to germinate. Ask students to pretend to be germinating seeds sprouting into seedlings.
- Explain to the students that they are going to germinate seeds through a process called ragdoll germination. Gardeners, farmers, and scientists use this process to test germination rates of seeds.
- Arrange students into ten small groups. Supply each group with a paper towel, plastic wrap, ten lima bean seeds, and two rubber bands. Have each group moisten a paper towel and squeeze out the excess water.
- Lay the plastic wrap out flat on a desk with the paper towel laid flat on top. Line ten seeds in the middle of the paper towel. Larger seeds work best for younger students.
- Fold the plastic wrap and paper towel in half and roll them into a round tube. Use rubber bands to cinch each end of the tube.
- Leave the ragdoll undisturbed in a warm place. After about one week, have each group open their ragdoll and count the seeds that germinated. Add each group’s count together and determine the percentage of seeds that germinated. This is the germination rate for the seed batch.
- Allow the students to observe the seedlings. Ask them what the seeds needed in order to germinate. (warmth and moisture) Ask the students if the seedlings have everything they need to continue to grow into healthy plants. Explain that plants need water, light, nutrients, and air to grow.
- Read the poem The Little Plant twice. Before rereading, ask the students to listen carefully to the poem and pretend to be a dormant seed or a germinating seed at the appropriate parts of the poem.
- Ask the students, “In the poem, where did the warmth that helped the seed germinate come from?” (The warmth came from the sun.) “Where did the moisture come from?” (The moisture came from the rain.)
Activity 3: Egghead Plant Starters
- Ask the students what plants need to grow. Explain that plants need water, light, nutrients, and air to grow.
- Explain to the students that they will be planting alfalfa seeds. Alfalfa is a flowering plant that is most commonly harvested as hay to be used as livestock feed.
- Show the egghead plant starter example to the students. Explain that they will be creating eggheads to start their alfalfa. Give each student an empty, rinsed eggshell. They will use the permanent markers to draw a face on the shell and write their name on the opposite side.
- Show the students how to spoon soil into the eggshell. Use a water spray bottle to moisten the soil before planting half a spoonful of alfalfa seeds. Spoon a small amount of soil on top, enough to cover the seeds.
- Explain to the students that the alfalfa seeds will germinate in about one week. In order to germinate, the seeds will need warmth and moisture. Ask the students how they can help the seeds get the warmth and moisture they need to germinate. The students can moisten the soil with a water spray bottle three times a day and keep the eggheads near a sunny window so the sunlight can warm the soil.
- Once the plants are growing, they will need water, light, nutrients, and air to grow. Ask the students how they can meet the needs of their plants. They can water their plants and keep them in a sunny place. The soil will provide nutrients, and the plants will use the air that is in the classroom.
- Show the students movements to represent the needs of a plant. To represent water from rain, the students will start with their hands raised high over their heads and then wiggle their fingers as they lower them to the ground. To represent light from the sun, the students will make the shape of a circle above their heads with their arms. To represent nutrients from the soil, the students will pat the ground with their hands. To represent air, the students will breathe in air, close their mouths, and puff out their cheeks.
- Sing the song Dig a Hole with the students. Ask the students to make the movements they learned when the song says water, light, nutrients, and air.
- After about three weeks, the alfalfa will have grown into a nice head of hair for the egghead, and the plants will need more space. They will be ready to transfer to a garden. The plants and eggshells can be transferred together. The eggshells will add the nutrient calcium to the soil. Calcium benefits cell growth in plants. Before transferring the plant, crush the eggshell to help it break down faster in the soil.
Activity 4: Sunflower Life Cycle Glove
- Before beginning this activity, place Velcro on each palm-side finger of the glove and on the back of each laminated sunflower life cycle picture.
- Place the glove onto your left hand. Attach the picture of the sunflower seed to the thumb of the glove. Explain that the seed is dormant or inactive.
- Ask the students what the seed needs to germinate. The seed needs warmth and moisture to germinate. Attach the picture of the seed germinating to the index finger of the glove.
- When the seed germinates, it becomes active and sprouts into a seedling. Attach the picture of the seedling to the middle finger of the glove.
- The seedling grows into a sunflower plant that will bloom. Attach the picture of the mature sunflower plant to the ring finger of the glove. Ask the students what the plant needs to grow. The plant needs water, light, nutrients, and air to grow.
- After about four months, the sunflower will shrivel up and die. Attach the picture of the dead sunflower to the pinky finger of the glove. When the sunflower dies, it drops its seeds. Touch your pinky finger to your thumb and explain that the seeds that are dropped will germinate into seedlings, grow into a sunflower plant, die, and drop seeds that will continue the cycle.
- Give each student a copy of the Life Cycle graphic organizer. Have students either arrange copies of the Sunflower Life Cycle Pictures in order on the graphic organizer or draw their own pictures in the boxes.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Plants are important resources in our lives.
- Farmers grow many types of plants for animals and humans to eat.
- Every plant has a life cycle. Farmers understand each plant's life cycle in order to harvest a good crop.
- Seeds need warmth and moisture to germinate and grow.
Use the one-minute video Time Lapse Radish Seeds Sprouting, Tops and Roots Growing to show your students how seeds sprout and grow.
Suggested Companion Resources
- How to Use a Ragdoll Test to Estimate Field Germination (Activity)
- Shape, Form, and Function in the Garden (Activity)
- A Seed in Need: A First Look at the Plant Cycle (Book)
- A Seed is Sleepy (Book)
- Big Yellow Sunflower (Book)
- Sadie's Seed Adventures: Learning About Seeds (Book)
- Seeds Go, Seeds Grow! (Book)
- Sunflower House (Book)
- The Tiny Seed (Book)
- Tops & Bottoms (Book)
- Unearthing Garden Mysteries: Experiments for Kids (Book)
- Alfalfa Seeds (Kit)
- Living Necklace Kits (Kit)
- Seeds for Terrariums (Kit)
- SpaceLite (Plant Light) (Kit)
- Utah Garden Planner (Kit)
- Farm to Table & Beyond (Teacher Reference)
- Greening School Grounds: Creating Habitats for Learning (Teacher Reference)
- Grow it Again (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)
- Junior Master Gardener Handbook (Teacher Reference)
- Junior Master Gardener Teacher & Leader Guide (Teacher Reference)
- Learn, Grow, Eat, and Go! (Teacher Reference)
- Math in the Garden (Teacher Reference)
- Steps to a Bountiful Kids' Garden (Teacher Reference)
- The Growing Classroom (Teacher Reference)
- School Garden Center (Website)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Agriculture and the Environment
- Describe how farmers use land to grow crops and support livestock (T1.K-2.a)
- Describe the importance of soil and water in raising crops and livestock (T1.K-2.b)
Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy
- Explain how farmers work with the lifecycle of plants and animals (planting/breeding) to harvest a crop (T2.K-2.a)
Education Content Standards
2-LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
2-LS2-1Plan and conduct an investigation to determine if plants need sunlight and water to grow.
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.