Everyone needs to study plants at some point. Here are lesson plan ideas for elementary students.
- Tops & Bottoms is a very fun book by Janet Stevens. I sort of want to read the whole story to you, and I think you’ll feel the same when you see the book. It’s about a rich but lazy bear and a poor but clever hare, and it’s definitely a Trickster Tale. The bear agrees to a sort of sharecropping arrangement with the hare: the hare will do all the work of planting and growing a crop, using the bear’s land, and the two animals will divide the crop. The hare gives the bear his choice: top half or bottom half. The bear chooses the top, and the hare plants root crops. When the bear decides to take the top half of the next crop, the hare naturally decides to plant corn. Your students will be delighted by the hare’s cleverness.
After reading the book, bring in some vegetables and sort them into those that grow above the ground and those that grow below the ground. Josepha and Gideon had way too much fun modeling this process for you:
We’ve also made you a beautiful worksheet. You can print this in color or in black and white. Just click on the appropriate link and print out the worksheet. If you have a color printer, put the color version on cardstock, laminate it, and cut out the cards for a sorting center to use when you don’t have any vegetables in the room. Use the black and white one for individual worksheets: let students cut the pictures out and sort them into vegetables that grow above the ground and vegetables that grow beneath.
In our state, the tomato is both the state fruit and the state vegetable, for interesting historical reasons having to do with taxes. If you prefer not to include it with vegetables, we don’t mind your leaving it out.
For all organisms, we want to study these things:
- characteristics and forms of the organism
- life cycle of the organism
- habitat and effect on the environment
- relationships with humans
For plants, it’s easy to start with a seed and grow a plant, making plenty of observations as you go along. Here are some things we like to do while growing and studying a plant:
- Compare seeds of different plants and draw and label sketches of them.
- Germinate seeds in a damp cloth or paper towel, observing differences in how different seeds germinate, or in how seeds in different circumstances germinate.
- Plant germinated seeds. Carefully choose one variable to change, such as how much sun the seed receives, how deep it’s planted, or how warm it is, and compare seeds in different conditions.
- Measure and chart the growth of the plant.
- Put a Post-it note over a large leaf to see the effect of shielding part of it from the sun.
Once you’ve made your observations and experiments, have students use their data to create charts and graphs — good visual text/ media literacy lesson opportunities, as well as a chance to cement knowledge about plants. Finish up with oral presentations of the graphic organizers.
Other plant lesson plans we like for this grade band:
- Pollination Parties includes a printable worksheet to help students understand this part of the plant’s life cycle.
- Pair the Plants helps students understand the taxonomy (naming) of plants.
- Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery is a story about a (possibly) vampire rabbit who might be sucking the juices from vegetables. We have vampire lesson plans, if you really get into it, and they also include some ideas about studying garlic, quite an interesting plant.
- Look What I Did with a Leaf! Collect leaves, read the book together, and turn the students loose to create their own wonderful designs.