Embrace spring with this STEAM activity for kids

Spring is here and plants have begun to peek their heads above the ground.  But what are all of these plants doing below the ground where we can’t see them? We know from what we do see that not all plants look the same above the ground, but is this true for plants below the ground?

Here’s a fun, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) project into plant science you can do with your child to investigate!

Seed Jar Science

This simple and inexpensive project is perfect for all ages—even for young kids who are still working on fine motor skills. Not only is it a great way to investigate plants from a perspective we don’t normally see, it’s a wonderful way to explore where our food comes from and how it grows.

How To Make a Seed Jar

Materials needed:

  • One mason jar (or empty, clear peanut butter or jelly jar that has been thoroughly washed)
  • Paper towels
  • Three types of seeds (I recommend inexpensive seeds that can easily be found at many grocery stores or gardening departments in department stores. Sunflowers, beans, and peas are great choices! You also can collect safe seeds from nature or from the food you eat.)

Instructions:

  • Crumple a paper towel and put it in the bottom of the jar.
  • Depending on the size of your jar, you can fold or crumple one or two more paper towels. Make sure to let them press up against the sides of the jar.
  • Place one or two seeds of each kind around the sides of the jar so they are “sandwiched” in between the paper towel and the inside of the jar.
  • Leave the lid off the jar.
  • Add some water…not too much. You want enough to make the paper towels wet but not soaking wet.
  • Add an element of art by putting a few drops of food coloring in the water in your jar…watch what happens!
  • Add just enough water each day to keep the paper towels moist.
  • You will begin to see your seeds grow in as little as 2-3 days.

What to watch for:

  • Within a few days, you will begin to see plant parts develop—including roots, root hairs, stems, and leaves.
  • Develop close observation skills by using a magnifying glass if you have one to watch up close the growth of your seeds. You could even use your cellphone camera to capture how the seeds grow over time.
  • Look for similarities and differences in your seeds. Compared to one another, how fast do they grow? How tall do they grow? What shape are they? Are the angles of the root hairs different? What parts of the seeds come up above the ground? What parts stay below the ground?

Once your plants have sprouted, you are able to transplant them into soil to keep watching them grow and blossom. Try different types of seeds and try growing them under different climate conditions.  There are many possibilities for you and your little scientist!

Jaunine Fouché, D. Ed., is the Milton Hershey School Director of STEAM, Agricultural & Environmental Education