Plant Science (Pre-K to Grade 6)

   Many homeschoolers and quite a few elementary school teachers feel unprepared to teach science.  I believe that this is in large part because they have no idea where to obtain the materials necessary to teach labs.  I have dealt with two very large companies, who although their primary purpose is to supply schools, will sell to individuals.  However, neither one will sell either chemicals or live bacteria and viruses.  These two are:  Ward Science Supplies and Carolina Biological.  Don't be fooled by the name.  Both sell materials to teach:  biology, geology, meteorology, astronomy, chemistry, and physics from kindergarten through graduate school.  A third company, Home Science Tools, sells primarily to homeschoolers.  They will provide chemicals in the very small quantities that a homeschooler would wish.  They also have many wonderful kits for teaching chemistry concepts. 

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BOOKS:

Oh Say, Can You Seed? All About Flowering Plants by Bonnie Worth

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle

The Big Seed by Ellen Howard

From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons

From Seed to Sunflower (Life Cycles) by Gerald Legg

The Acorn and the Oak Tree by Lori C. Froeh

Reasons for a Flower by Ruth Heller

Why do Leaves Change Color by Betsy Maestro
Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons

Apples by Gail Gibbons

The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons

Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
Beans (Life Cycles) by Julie Murray

Corn (Life Cycles) by Julie Murray

Watermelon (Life Cycles) by Julie Murray

Cane to Sugar by Julie Murray

Cocoa Bean to Chocolate by Julie Murray

Be a Friend to Trees by Patricia Lauber - Trees provide food, shelter, and other necessities.

Maple Tree (Life Cycles) by David M. Schwartz

I Can Name 50 Trees Today by Bonnie Worth ( Please note: Palms are technically not trees; also aloe is not a tree.)

Tell Me, Tree: All About Trees for Kids by Gail Gibbons - This book discusses life cycles and parts of a tree.

A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry - All the fascinating things trees can do.

My Favorite Tree: Terrific Trees of North America by Diane Iverson - (Again Please Note: Palms and Saguaro are not TREES! I do wish publishers would check out scientific information with the proper people before publishing.)

EXPERIMENTS:

1. Make diagonal slices at the top and bottom of a celery stalk and place it in water with red food coloring. When the red dye appears at the top of the stalk cut a few pieces cross-ways and a few lengthwise. Read about xylem and phloem in the book "Oh, say can you seed?"

2. Start with 20 plastic petri dishes. Cut 5 circles of paper towel to layer in the bottom of each petri dish. Add 5 bean seeds to each dish. In only 10 of the dishes, add enough water to moisten the paper towels. Put the lids on the petri dishes and use a marker to indicate which one had water added. Wrap each petri dish in plastic wrap.

Place 5 dishes in the light, without water

Place 5 dishes in the light, with water

Place 5 dishes in the dark cabinet, without water

Place 5 dishes in the dark cabinet, with water

Those seeds without water will not germinate. Seeds will germinate in the light or dark. Compare findings after 2 weeks to the information in the book, "Oh, say can you seed?"

3. Fill 6 waxed paper cups with vermiculite and add 3 bean seeds to each cup. Water. Place 3 cups in the light and 3 in the dark. Be very careful to water the seeds in the dark only at night and with a very minimal amount of light on to allow you to do so. After a few weeks, those plants in the light will be healthy and green. Those in the dark, will be etiolated, that is, yellowish-white and leggy (lots of stem, few leaves). Though seeds germinate in the dark (under the soil), plants without light can not develop the chlorophyll necessary for photosynthesis. Carefully remove one of the healthy plants from its cup and gently tap away the vermiculite so that you can see the root system. Compare what you see to the book, "Oh, say can you seed?"

4. Early in spring, plant lots of very different kinds of seeds in waxed paper cups with vermiculite. Be sure to use a permanent marker to indicate what type of seed is in each cup. I also suggest lots of repetition in case some seeds fail to germinate (3-5 cups for each species of plant; 3 seeds in each cup if the seeds are large, more if they are small).

As these plants grow, point out to the children that each type of plant looks very different from the others. When appropriate transplant these outside. Be sure to discuss which part of the plant it is that people eat. I suggest the following: corn, tomato, carrot, pea, bean, sunflower, cucumber, bell pepper, and okra.

OTHER RESOURCES:

Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis and Longwood Gardens west of Philadelphia are both wonderful sites to see a variety of plants.

Park Seed Company and Burpee Seeds and Plants are both excellent sources for seeds. 

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