More Fun Classroom Activities to Interest Children / Kids in Growing Plants

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I have written this article as a follow up to my original article called Fun Classroom Activities to Interest Children / Kids in Growing Plants. The first article has proven to be so popular that clearly there are a lot of teachers and even parents out there keen to find new and fun activities for the classroom with a view to capturing the children's imagination and encouraging them to find growing plants or their own vegetables an exciting new interest or hobby. I am not out of ideas yet and first became hooked on growing my own food as a child of about six or seven, so it seems only right I should share my other ideas and experiences of plant growing so that more kids can be inspired and take up growing their own food in the future.

I really hope you all find this article as useful as the first one and that all of you teachers out there can put these ideas to good use in the classroom. If you do enjoy this article too there is a third one in the series called Even More Fun Activities to Interest Children / Kids in Growing Plants that you might want to check out as well. Additionally I have written one that covers Fun Classroom Activities and Experiments to Interest Children / Kids in Animals and Pets.

In a separate article I cover another very popular topic and that is How to grow your child a living den or playhouse from willow or other plants.

My favourite teacher during my school years had to be my Horticulture Teacher because of the way he supported my fascination with growing plants, (mostly vegetables). However, my passion for growing any plants began much earlier, and was also encouraged by teachers in my junior schools when we the pupils were performing the simple growing experiments I described in my first article.

Truly this is something we should all be encouraging more than ever today, especially with food becoming more expensive and pesticides and sprays being used liberally on most of the vegetables we buy in shops. What better way to guarantee our children eat fresher, healthier, greener vegetables, and help the environment in the process by reducing the miles food has to travel to reach our plates.


A Sunflower Growing Competition

This is a fun project for children to have a go at, and you can get them even more interested in if you liven things up by making it into a competition. Either provide each child with a 3" plant pot or get them to bring in an empty yoghurt or cream pot from home and pierce some holes into the bottom of it, They can even have fun making their own newspaper plant pots. Buy an appropriate sized bag of compost and then get each child to fill their pots to within about a cm of the rim. A packet or two of sunflower seeds can then be distributed between the children, allowing them 2 each to avoid disappointment if one fails to germinate.

For the next stage the children will need to gently water the compost in each pot and then let it drain, (I recommend they also each have a saucer to place their pots on for the duration of growing their sunflowers). Once the compost has drained each child should use their finger to poke two holes in the compost, each hole approximately 1.5cm deep, before then placing a sunflower seed (pointed end upwards) in the holes. They can then fill in the holes with a little more compost from the bag, gently press it down and then lightly water the pots again to settle the compost around the seeds.

After four or five days the seedlings should start to emerge from the compost. During the entire growing period the pupils will need to be responsible for keeping the compost in their pots moist and not allow it to either dry out or get too wet. At the point the seedlings have developed their first true set of leaves (not the seedling leaves), it should be possible to see which is the stronger seedling, and the children can remove the weaker of the two seedlings in their pot.

Within a few weeks the seedlings will have grown into young plants, and their roots may well be beginning to appear at the bottom of the pots. Now is when the real fun begins. The kids can now transplant their sunflowers outside, (making sure each sunflower is supported by a long bamboo cane of about 6-8 feet in length) and begin the real competition of who can grow the tallest specimen. Ideally you will have an area of ground at the school that can be used for this stage, but if not, large pots outside would work too. In the worst case scenario the children can take their plants home and grow them there, but they will need an adult to verify the final height of their plants, and ideally they should get a photo of themselves standing next to their plant. It is most fun if the competition is done at school though, as the sunflowers can be grown side by side, and each child can see if theirs is the tallest on any one day. They can also have good fun coming up with ideas for how to make their sunflower grow taller, e.g. trying home made composts, using various home made plant foods, or burying used teabags next to their plants.

Set an end date for the competition based on the 'seed to maturity' times stated on the seed packet. Then award a suitable prize to the pupil who has grown the tallest sunflower.

Change the Colour of Your Plants

This is an experiment that fascinates children and illustrates to them how plants take up the water through their roots before distributing it out to their leaves. The best bit is it is ever so simple to conduct this experiment. You can do this a couple of ways. Either each child can do the experiment on individual plants of their own, or the teacher can have a selection of plants that they conduct the experiments on as a classroom activity.

Ideally you will need fairly broad leafed plants such as mint, beans or even small lettuces like 'Little Gem', and of course they should have green leaves as opposed to any other coloured leaves. The plants should be those which take up a reasonable amounts of water, so Cacti and Succulents are a not suitable. Next you will need a variety of different food colourings and some water. Over a period of a week or so water each plant with a solution made up of water mixed with one of the food colourings. As the days go on the various colours each plant has been watered with will begin to be visible in the veins of the leaves as the plants take up the coloured solutions. Good fun to watch and fascinating for the kids.

Another fun experiment can be done with a pink Hydrangea bush. This plant will produce pink flowers, but you can get the flowers to change to blue by burying iron filings at the roots of the shrub. As the iron rusts the flowers on the shrub will begin to go blue naturally. This happens for the same reason that a Hydrangea grown on an alkaline soil will be pink, but one grown on an acidic soil will be blue.

Watering Experiments

It is a well known gardening fact that watering plants correctly is an important skill, and that waiting for a plant to wilt before watering it will definitely check its growth quite severely. Yes it will perk up again after it finally gets a drink (assuming you don't leave it too long), but the plant has already suffered a setback. This classroom experiment will prove the point very well.

Firstly you will need two healthy, moisture loving young plants such as tomatoes. These need to be exactly the same size and age. One of these plants you will ensure is watered regularly and never allowed to dry out completely. The other plant will be left to dry out completely between watering, and will not be watered again until the leaves start to go limp. When you water this plant again it will of course perk up and appear to be fully healthy again. It will also be useful to take pictures of each plant at fixed intervals (maybe a week apart), for later comparisons. What will soon become apparent is that the plant that is kept moist will thrive and continue to grow, but the plant that is allowed to wilt and recover repeatedly will still grow, but will be far smaller and less healthy than the other plant.

For the results of this experiment to prove the point, it is really important that both plants are otherwise exposed to identical conditions, e.g. light, warmth and food. If the plants outgrow their pots during the course of the experiment they should be potted on into larger pots to ensure that having been pot bound does not influence the results either. The good thing about using tomato plants for this experiment is that you can carry the test right on to the point the plants produce fruit, and can weigh the crop produced by each plant in order to prove better production of fruit on the plant that received regular watering.

Grow a Pot of Herbs

Each child can have fun doing this, whether they do this as a gift for their Mum or their Gran, or even if they just want to take the pot home for themselves at the end of the project. I suggest buying an assortment of herb seeds (parsley, thyme, basil coriander, chives, mint etc), and let each child decide what herb they would like to grow. Each child will need a plant pot again, but they can have fun painting it and decorating it as part of the task. A bag of compost will be required so each child can fill their pots ready for planting. As with the sunflowers the pots of compost should be watered and allowed to drain before planting. Most herb seeds are very small so no holes will be required this time. All the children will need to do is sprinkle a few seeds on the surface of the compost and cover them with a tiny pinch of compost. I suggest then covering the top of the pots with a piece of cling film secured with an elastic band to stop the compost drying out before the seeds germinate.

As soon as the pupil spots that his or her seedlings are showing they will need to remove the cling film immediately. Over the coming days they will need to water very carefully to avoid drowning the tiny seedlings , (a trigger spray can make this easier until the seedlings get a little bigger). In some cases the children may need to thin the seedlings down to one or two per pot, (check the seed packets to find out this information per herb).

This can be a great classroom activity to do in advance of Mother's Day so the children quite literally create the entire gift themselves, right from decorating the pot to growing the contents.

I hope you found this a useful list of ideas for more classroom activities to get school children / kids interested in growing plants and vegetables. If you did you will probably enjoy the related articles below.

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Comments 20 comments

Hubertsvoice 4 years ago

Great project.I remember my son doing similar experiments with planting in school. In our home garden he was responsible for cucumbers and yellow squash. He did a great job.


adrianeds profile image

adrianeds 4 years ago from Valley, Anglesey UK

What an informative and insightful Hub I really really like it,good clean writing to the point and drawing you in so you want to read more and more.Brilliant keep it up Thanks.

adrianeds


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

It is great fun Hubert. We used to actually have our own vegetable allotments when I was in High School and this was wonderful fun.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Adrianeds, really pleased you enjoyed this :)


R. J. Lefebvre 4 years ago

Your hub is a good positive attribute for young children to learn as they grow. Personally, I feel like our method of teaching could use some of your ideas. I came out of the elementary classes feeling like only a handful of my teachers cherished their job more than there pocket. On one hand I feel empathy for them, on the other I feel we are cheating ourselves when we are not committed to the task at hand. As an example the DVD titled The Ron Clark Story, a true story of teaching!

Ms Michelle Rhee, America needs your ideals of schooling.

Ronnie


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks for the positive feedback Ronnie. Glad you liked this article.


R. J. Lefebvre 4 years ago

Misty, I was born the day Pearl Harbor was bombed. My comments were based on the mid 40s to 50s in elementary schools. I suspect our education system has a long way to go to catch up to many nations, and we need the likes of people like you to succeed. I can't help thinking our country is going backwoods in both education and politics; in a contest of wealth and power by those in charge. I apologize for sounding negative, apparently your periscope has a different perspective than mine. I need to read more of your hubs to steer me in a positive way. Thanks to you, I may become a different man.

Ronnie


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Ronnie, I am only the tender age of 41, but am inclined to agree that our education system certainly seems to be going backwards in many ways. The simple basics of life like how to grow our own food, be respectful of others, look after our environment etc should be an essential part of education, yet they seem largely conspicuous in their absence today.

I hope you do read and enjoy my other hubs, although they cover numerous topics, not just education and gardening. I shall take time to look out for yours too.

I am sincerely flattered by your opinion of me, although I am sure I don't deserve such high praise.


R. J. Lefebvre 4 years ago

Misty, I'm looking forward to reading your other hubs. Your personaality shines on this end, I'd like to see your smile in person.

Ronnie


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

That is such a nice thing to say Ronnie. Sadly I guess we are unlikely to ever meet in person, but I am genuinely smiling in my profile picture :)

PS. I actually have a cat called Ronnie who is laying by my feet right now :)


R. J. Lefebvre 4 years ago

Misty, No problem, I sense your smile in your writing. We have 3 cats: Patches, Aerial, and Angle, all are strays. However, Angle does not always live up to her name. By the way, your Ronnie is me in disguise, ha, ha.

Ronnie


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

LOL, We have two cats in total, Ronnie and Squish. However we also have a neighbours cat who spends tonnes of time here and we call him 'Little Grey Thing' although his real name is Dexter. We did have a third cat of our own called Reggie, but sadly he was run over and killed on Easter Saturday. It was very sad, and Ronnie (his Brother) took a long time to start behaving normally again. It was like he knew something was wrong.


R. J. Lefebvre 4 years ago

Misty, It appears that all life forms have a spiritual presense with each other. I have always thought that was true. Sharing our existence in a positive way by not thinking we know it all, but don't.

Ronnie


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

I totally agree Ronnie, and thanks for your thoughts here :)

Cindy


R. J. Lefebvre 4 years ago

Cindy, Thanks for your concern about the colonoscopy. I'm seeing my doctor on the 24th and I'll bring it up with him. However, he has to qualify his recommendation. I know there other are posibile ways to determine whether it is necessary to follow through on any of them. By the way, I have killed only one chicken and never felt good about it, its spiritual presence haunted me. The only thing I can kill without remorse is a pain in the ass insect which won't go away.

Ronnie


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Ronnie, it is worth getting checked out. Believe me it was not pleasant watching my Husband wither away and die from bowel Cancer in just 2 weeks. He even got to the stage he was in so much pain he begged the nurse to help him die (she told me this after he passed).

I am sure if we all had to physically kill our own meat, or rather the animals we were going to eat, there would be a great deal more vegetarians in the world. I can just about kill a bothersome fly or an invasion of ants in my home, but after that I am hopeless and could never kill my own meat.


R. J. Lefebvre 4 years ago

Cindy, I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your Husband. I admire your composure, I feel you are likely having a difficult time in sustaining each day for some time. I hope there are family and friends nearby to help you to continue life as your Husban would want you to. Thank you for encouragement on my behalf.

Ronnie


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Ronnie, thanks for your kind words. This happened in 2001, and since then I have got on with my life, and met my current Husband in 2005. My memories of what happened are strong though, and if the only good thing to come out of his death is that I can use the experience to save another life, then at least he didn't die in vain. It might even be yours if you get checked out!

Cindy


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana

I love the idea of a sunflower growing competition! Hands on learning experiences that get kids out into nature are so key to their long term development! Great hub:)


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

They are good fun Kris, I came second in one we had at school, but I remember I went to huge amounts of trouble to get hold of plant food tablets and rotted chicken manure in order to maximise my chances of growing the tallest sunflower.

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