How Things Grow
Duration: Completed throughout the year
Vocabulary: root, mulch, harvest
Summary: Students will plant, care for, and harvest vegetables, and then prepare the raised bed for the winter.
Objectives: Students will gain a deeper understanding of both how things grow and where their food comes form.
- hand trowels and rakes
- gardening gloves
- pea, lettuce, radish, spinach, and onion seeds
- starter trays
- leaves to mulch with
Unless their parents keep a garden at home, it can be difficult for children to grasp where the food they eat really comes from. This activity will give student a better understanding of how plants grow in general, and how their food grows specifically. It will also give them a greater appreciation of what farmers do to grow the things they eat every day.
All plants come from seeds. Inside each seed is a baby plant waiting to grow and come out. The seed cannot move around like animals can, so whether a seed grows or not depends on where it lands. If it lands in a place with enough light and water, a tiny plant will start pushing out from the seed. Most plants send roots down into the ground and send a stem up into the air. Leaves grow off of the stem and sometimes fruits and vegetables do to. Some vegetables, like carrots, are actually the roots of the plant!
Plants can grow on their own in the wild but farmers help care for certain plants to make sure there is enough food for all of us to eat. They do this by weeding—removing other small plants that might take up too much space or water, watering, and sometimes fertilizing the plant—giving it some nutrients it needs, just like you would take vitamins. It takes a lot of work and caring to get food all the way from a seed to being served at the dinner table!
Ask students how many of them ate something that came from a farm for dinner last night. After seeing how many raise their hand, explain to them that all of them did. Ask if they know where fruits and vegetables come from, and how they get to their dinner plates.
Explain that they are going to try to grow their own vegetables, which they will get to eat at the end in a “Harvest Party.”
Show students pictures of how plants grow (see Handouts section), and explain the basic process. In February or March, plant seeds with children in starter boxes in the classroom. Peas, lettuce, spinach, radishes, and onions work well for this. If these seeds are used there should be time for them to grow and be harvested before students leave for the summer. If possible, use grow lights inside to help plants take.
Have students watch the plants as they grow. Depending on skill levels, have students write down one or two word observations once a week.
When it becomes warm enough, take students out to planter boxes to prepare the soil. Show them how to break soil up with rakes, explaining that this will help the plants grow. Ask them if they think it would be easy or difficult for a plant to grow in soil hard like concrete, and explain that this will also help air get into the soil.
Once soil is prepared, help students remove the plants growing in the starter boxes and plant them in the raised beds. Water the plants.
Once a week take students out to weed raised beds, and make sure they are moist enough. Watch progress of plants to see when it is time to harvest them!
As plants become ripe, harvest them and let students try them. If possible, host a “Harvest Party” near the end of the year where students try the different vegetables they grew (either the vegetables themselves or store-bought equivalents).
After all of the vegetables are harvested, cover the raised beds with dead leaves as mulch and to keep weeds from growing.
Ask students to explain how plants grow.
Have students draw a picture of a seed sprouting after it is planted in the soil.
Ask students at the end of the project who ate something that came from a farm for dinner and see how their responses compare to the beginning of the year.
If there are extra materials, consider sending a planted seed home with each student for them to try growing on their own.
Ask students to act out the way a seed grows, starting curled up in a ball as a seed, and then sending up a hand as the shoot, and then standing up taller and taller as the plant grows.
Pictures/Handouts (click to go)