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Growing And Graphing Plants

Key Developer Rachel Driscoll Teacher - Acton Elementary School 1500 Milton Mills Road Acton, ME 04001 [email protected] Snapshot

Youngsters garden their way to understanding in this unit designed to build observation, charting and number skills. Nurturing their plants from seed, the students chart the growth of marigolds in both inches and centimeters for fourteen or more weeks, using the collected data to create a computer generated bar graph. Control plants are also raised in a variety of conditions to help students learn the conditions for optimum growth. The work culminates with a written report.


I'm Rachel Driscoll, and I've been teaching second grade at Acton Elementary School for four years. Prior to this, I taught Title I and also served a nine-year stint as an Educational Technician in Special Education. I can't imagine teaching anything but second grade...there's nobody like a seven-year old to put the world in perspective day after day! I also appreciate being able to plan and teach all subjects to my class. I find it interesting to be able to cross curricular boundaries, as I have in my SEED project, "Growing And Graphing Plants".

Unit Information

Primary Content Area: Science and Technology Guiding Principle 1: An integrative and informed thinker. Guiding Principle 2: A creative and practical problem-solver. Grades Used: Grade 2 Grades Suitable: Grades 1 - 3


Maine Learning Results Alignment Content Area 1

Grade Level: Content Area: Elementary Grades Pre-K-2 Science and Technology Students will understand the basis for all life and that all living things change over time. Students will be able to: 2. Identify characteristics that help organisms live in their environment. 3. Draw or describe ways in which an organism can change over its lifetime, sometimes in predictable ways (e.g., butterfly, frog).


Content Area 2

Grade Level: Content Area: Elementary Grades Pre-K-2 Mathematics Students will understand and apply concepts of data analysis. 1. Formulate and solve problems by collecting, arranging, and interpreting data. 2. Make tallies and graphs of information gathered from immediate surroundings.



At the completion of this project, the learners will demonstrate understanding of all stages of a plant's life, and how this constitutes a cycle. They will also understand what conditions support optimal growth for the plant. In addition, the learners will gain experience in collecting and formulating data into a graph. The overarching questions that the learners will be able to answer are "How do the stages of a plant's life constitute a cycle?", and "What characteristics in nature allow for plants to live and grow successfully?" This plant growth unit allows for a seamless integration of knowledge and skills embedded in the Science and Technology as well as Mathematics content areas of the Learning Results. The charge of the "Continuity and Change" Content Standard is that students "come to understand that the basis for all life and all living things change over time." The Performance Indicators call for students to "identify characteristics that can help organisms live in their environment" and then "draw or describe ways organisms can change over its lifetime." The requirements for the first Performance Indicator are met through direct instruction, and the power of observing plants which grew either successfully or not so, depending on the conditions to which they were subjected. The second indicator is addressed through classroom instruction which requires students to draw and label the four stages of a plant's life cycle.


In the Mathematics Content Area of Data and Statistics, students are charged to "understand and apply concepts of data analysis." This is accomplished in the gathering of plant height data on a chart, and the converting of this data into graph format in a Clarisworks For Kids template.


After classroom instruction about the plant's life cycle, I gave the students a largersized paper plate. I instructed them to draw and label the life cycle of a marigold (i.e. seed, seedling, flower, seed-dropping flower). Also, students demonstrate this understanding using Clarisworks For Kids draw program, where they draw and label the plant's life cycle. The template in Clarisworks For Kids in which the growth graph is generated also contains a narrative space where the students explain the reasons for their plant's growth, and the conditions that were necessary for this to occur.


The learners acquire knowledge and skills that span both the areas of science and mathematics through this project. Through hands-on care and direct classroom instruction, the learners come to understand the plant life cycle, as well as the conditions in nature necessary to support growth. Also, through the weekly plant measurements and the creation of the graph in the computer lab, the learners deepen measurement skills, and have a first experience with creating a computergenerated graph. It is helpful for the learners to have a basic understanding of measuring in inches and centimeters. Also, some previous experience with a computer draw program is helpful.


I have chosen the hundredth day of school (which generally falls very early in February) as the launch of this project. This isn't necessary to the project itself, but I treat the hundredth day as a special one, with many cross-curricular activities to celebrate the event. During this day, the students count out and plant one hundred marigold seeds. The seeds then need about three to four weeks to germinate and grow their first set of true leaves (the second set of leaves to show). At this time, the students repot their own marigold plant. I also pot up to twenty other plants at this time. At this time, the students take their first height measurements of their plant in inches and centimeters and record them on an individual chart which I keep on a clipboard near the plants. Also around this time, I provide direct classroom instruction on the conditions necessary to support ideal growth for the plants. The students brainstorm what they believe the plants need to thrive. They also brainstorm other conditions we can subject the extra plants to in the classroom to test how they'll fare. For the next ten to twelve weeks, the plants grow (or don't!) and weekly measurements are taken and recorded. As the plants near the tenth week, I provide classroom instruction on how a plant's changes from seed to seedling, to flower and back to seed again constitute a cycle. After direct instruction, I engage the students in painting murals in teams to illustrate the plant cycle, and have each student produce their own short mini-book describing the plant cycle. In addition, I have acquired three sets of multiple-copy books about the plant cycle, and these become the basis of a reading center.


When around twelve to fourteen weeks of growth data are collected, a computer lab class is used to convert the data into a graph on a Clarisworks For Kids template. The students also write a brief narrative explaining what conditions led to their plants' growth. A separate computer class is used to draw and label a picture displaying the stages of a plant's life cycle.


From planting one hundred seeds, to converting the growth data into a computergenerated graph covers about a four month span. The general sequence of activities and lessons are as follows: 1. Plant one hundred marigold seeds on the one hundredth day of school (or the beginning of February). 2. When the plants are ready for repotting (around week four), have the students repot their own marigold and place a popsicle stick with their name in the pot. Also, repot around twenty extra plants yourself. At this time, provide direct instruction on the optimum conditions necessary for plant growth (i.e., light, water, soil and warmth). The students brainstorm what they believe the plants need to thrive. Their plants are placed in optimum spots in the room. They also brainstorm other growth conditions we can subject the extra plants to, and speculate what the outcomes will be in these test plants. At this time, student's take their first measurements of their plants in inches and centimeters and record the data on an individual chart. I keep all charts organized on a clipboard near the plants. 3. When the plants have grown for approximately fourteen weeks in all, I begin direct classroom instruction on the plant's life cycle. I have three multiple-copy sets of books on the plant life cycle, and use these as a reading center during literacy block. The student's respond to their readings in their reading journal notebook. The students also paint murals in teams demonstrating the plant life cycle. In addition, the students produce their own mini-books illustrating the plant cycle. Usually, this is also done during a reading center. 4. During a computer lab period (a forty five minute period in my school), the students use their collected height data and record the information into a prepared template in Clarisworks For Kids. (See attached.) In a space provided, they also write a brief narrative on which conditions led to optimum growth for their marigold. 5. During the next computer lab period, the students create and label a drawing of the plant life cycle (we use Clarisworks For Kids draw program). I ask the students to draw the stages in a circular fashion and provide arrows from stage to stage, emphasizing that this demonstrates a cycle.


I have found this unit of study to be extremely successful for all learners. I provided assistance to any student requiring help in measuring his or her plant. Students requiring Title I reading or Resource Room support read and responded to their plant books with the proper assistance. Resource Room support was given to all IEPed students during the computer lab periods.



In my school's Mac-based computer lab, we used a specially created template in Clarisworks For Kids that generated a corresponding graph as the students entered growth data. The students' response to watching this graph grow before their eyes as they enter real-life data they collected is wonderful to observe. This activity truly brings to life an aspect of mathematics that can be fairly dry when there is no connection to their own lives. We use the draw program in Clarisworks For Kids to create the drawing of the plant life cycle, though any draw program that students have experience in will suffice for this purpose. This drawing serves as an effective assessment. Also, research supports that a multi-sensory approach such as drawing on the computer is an effective reinforcer of knowledge.


Materials needed for the classroom to complete this project are packets of marigold seeds (use fresh seed!), peat pots or a growing tray filled with potting soil, large drawing paper, paints, and some access to age-appropriate literature about the plant life cycle, charts to record growth, rulers displaying inches and centimeters and the individual growth recording sheets. If you do not have window access, you may want to find a growth light for the plants. Also, access to your school's computer lab, an age-appropriate draw program, and the Clarisworks For Kids template (see attached).


Plant Graph Start ClarisWorks for Kids Pick * * Click on Title of Graph and type in Plant Growth. Click on Topic Head and type Week. Click on Measurement and type Centimeters Click on Item 1 and type One. Press Tab and type the height of your plant. Now continue with Two and height until you have them all typed in. Click and drag across Type your notes about this graph. Hit Delete and type


what you did to grow and measure you plants. Add you name to your notes. Proof your work carefully and print.


Chart Plant Growth Name:___________________ Date Inches Centimeters



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