Tuesday, March 10

Science Project - Plant Dissection

Spring is coming, and we're going to be focusing heavily on gardening.  I think that, if you want the kids to understand plant growth, they should understand plant anatomy.  This post is a study on plants and plant anatomy...
Using The Good & the Beautiful Botany as a base, we began by examining the flower, intact.  The kids drew pictures of the tulip, and labeled the important parts.  Then we dug a little deeper, and learned the plant classifications: monocotyledon and dicotyledon, commonly referred to as monocots and dicots.
Then we pulled out the scalpel and cutting board, and went to work!  We worked our way from the top down, examining the petals and plant reproductive system first.  There are resources to help you with this part at the bottom of this post.  If you look closely, you can see the teeny ovules.
We carefully pulled apart the leaves and checked out how the plant gets its nutrients by capillary action.  There is a fantastic Young Scientists' kit that demonstrates capillary action through multiple experiments.  For a quick & easy show, though, you can stick a celery stalk into a glass with blue or red food coloring - leave it overnight and watch the magic as the stalk turns colors!

Finally, we got down to the bulb - the seed of this tulip plant.  Remember what Shrek said?  It's like an onion.  You have to peel back the layers.  The boys enjoyed peeling layer after layer off the bulb until they reached the stalk and fibrous roots.

Here are a couple of anatomical diagramming pages to get you started....

Plant Anatomy Resources
If you don't already own the Magic School Bus DVD set, I highly recommend it.  Ninety percent of the time, I can find an introductory-level video that engages the kids in whatever science topic we will be discussing.  They retain a lot of information, without even realizing it, and all because Miss Frizzle makes it so fun!  This 8-dvd set has twenty-six hours of episodes!!

  • 4 pots
  • 1 jar with a lid
  • 5 healthy plants  (same size & kind)
  • potting soil
  • water
  • labels
  • paper & crayons
  • Put one plant in a jar, with soil, and put the lid on it.  Label it "No Air."
  • Put a plant into a pot with no soil.  Label it "No Soil."
  • Put a plant into a pot with soil and label it "No Sun."  (Keep it in the dark)
  • Put a plant into a pot with soil and label it "No Water."  (Give it sun, but no water)
  • Put a plant into a pot and label it "Soil, Sun, Water, and Air."  (Give it all four)
  • Keep track of your plants' growth for 7-10 days.  Note any changes.
  • What did you learn about plant needs?

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  1. Studying plant anatomy is lots of fun! Other fun activities you can do at home include visualizing the vascular system of celery (by putting a celery stalk in colored water and waiting about an hour for the colored water to move up the stalk), demonstrating transpiration (by putting a clear, sealable plastic bag around a single leaf. In about an hour, you should start to see water vapor accumulate in the bag. This has transpired from the leaf stomata---the tiny holes on the underside of the leaf. If you have access to a microscope, there's a simple way to view leaf stomata using clear nail polish and some tape.

    1. Good ideas! We've actually done both of those, so I'm not sure why I didn't put them up in this post....I think we did them with Scouts during a campout. :)

  2. This is fantastic. I was just looking at some gardening activity books on Amazon for the kids to work through this spring. Dissecting a flower looks like a fun activity that would kickstart our gardening unit!

  3. Taking things apart to see how they are put together is excellent.

  4. We did a very similar project one year using sunflowers.. they made such a mess but we sure had lots of fun.


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