In this Michigan 5E inquiry lesson, students will work in small groups to create mixtures of soil sand and rock, pick Michigan plant life to grow in the mixture, and record their findings over one month’s time to decide what type of soil mixture helps plants grow the best.
“Do plants like a special mix of earth materials?”
Students will identify basic Earth materials.
Students will predict which soil-sand-rock combination will best support local plant life.
Students will independently record findings of their experiment.
E.SE.00.11 Identify Earth materials that occur in nature (sand, rocks, soil, water).
E.SE.00.12 Describe how Earth materials contribute to the growth of plant and animal life.
S.IP.00.11 Make purposeful observation of the natural world using the appropriate senses.
S.IP.00.13 Plan and conduct simple investigations.
clear plastic cups
dried lentils, pinto beans or peas (or any other seeds that grow well in Michigan)
paper folded into quarters
colored pencils, crayons, etc.
If earth materials have not yet been introduced, take time at the beginning of the lesson for students to explore the materials above.
Set up the cups, soil, sand, gravel and seeds on a prep table.
Explain the inquiry lesson gestalt to students as a group. “We’re going to do an experiment to figure out how plants grow best. We’ll use soil, sand, rocks and water, but you get to decide how much to use for your plant. Then we’ll watch our plants and draw pictures of how they look, and at the end of the month we’ll see what mixture worked best.”. Encourage prediction by asking students how they think plants will grow best (“with lots of water and soil? A little mix of everything?”).
Break students into groups and give each group a plastic cup. Groups visit the teacher one at a time to decide what they’re mixture will look like (1 tablespoon of soil, 3 tablespoons of gravel, etc.). Teacher records the students’ “recipe” on a piece of tape and attaches to the cup, then adds the seeds and covers them with a little soil.
To add a level of difficulty, students can decide how much water the cups get as well.
Record plant growth once a week on paper folded into quarters. At the end of the month, students and teacher can discuss which cup grew the best and why which ones didn’t do well, etc. Students can take extra seeds home to try and grow, or use them to create seed packets for another lesson .