- Big Ideas
- Esstential Questions
- Content Outcomes Addressed
- Standards Addressed
- Additional Resources
- Pre- and Post-Assessment
- Investigation 1: General Introduction and Overview of Plants
- Investigation 2: How Plants Survive: Evapotranspiration and Photosynthesis
- Investigation 3: How Plants Contribute to the Ecosystem
- Plants are different from other animals and humans in that they are able to produce their own food from photosynthesis.
- The major organs of a plant include the roots, stem, and leaves.
- Plants are important to the ecosystem in that they are the primary producers (they provide food
- for other organisms), and they produce oxygen.
- How are plants different from animals?
- What are the different parts of a plant?
- What is the function of each major plant organ?
- Why are plants important in the ecosystem and to the survival of other organisms?
Content Outcomes Addressed
- Students will be able to identify the different parts of a plant.
- Students will be able to identify the function of the different plant organs.
- Students will be able to understand how plants survive (obtain water, produce food, etc.).
- Disciplinary Core Ideas: ESS2.E(K-2)(3-5), ESS3.A(K-2), LS1.A(K-2)(3-5), LS2.A(3-5), LS1.C(K-2)(3-5)(6-8), LS2.B(3-5), LS4.C(K-2)(3-5)(6-8), LS4.D(K-2)(3-5)
- Science and Engineering Practices: 1–4, 6–8
- Crosscutting Concepts: 1–4, 6
- Reading: RI 3.3, RI 3.8, RI 4.7
- Writing: W3.2, W3.8
- Speaking and Listening: SL 3.1, SL 4.1, SL 5.1, SL 3.2, SL 3.3, SL 4.2, SL 5.2, SL 4.3, SL 3.6
- Mathematical Practice: MP 2, MP 3, MP 6
National Geography Standards: 7, 15, 16
Earth is populated by a grand variety of plants, which contributes to its huge biodiversity. While the types of plants are numerous and diverse, plants are similar in that they share organs that help them survive. Some of the major organs include the roots, leaves, and the stem. The function of the roots is to absorb and take in water available in the environment (most often soil); leaves provide surface area in which photosynthesis is conducted; the stem provides support for the plant and a pathway through which food and water travel within the plant.
Plants are a necessary and vital part of the biosphere and their presence is vital for animals and other living organisms. For example, about 10 percent of the moisture found in the atmosphere is from the evapotranspiration of plants (source: USGS). Photosynthesis not only produces carbohydrates that provide sustenance for herbivores, but also creates oxygen, which is necessary for respiration in other organisms.
- chlorophyll: a green pigment in plants (leaves) that absorbs sunlight used in photosynthesis
- photosynthesis: the process in which carbon dioxide and water are used to create food for plants
- stem: central structure of the plant that provides support for the plant and a pathway for transportation of water and nutrients for the plant
- roots: anchor the plant to the ground, absorb water and nutrients from the soil, support the stem, and store food
- evapotranspiration: process by which water that has been carried through the plant from its roots to its leaves evaporates from the leaves
- transpiration: process by which water is carried through the plant from its roots to its leaves
- xylem: plant tissue that consists of hollow, narrow tubes that transport water
Pre- and Post-Assessment
Assess prior knowledge by asking students to respond in writing and pictures to these questions: What makes something a plant (as opposed to an animal)? How do plants survive? Why are plants important? Have students repeat this activity after the unit of study.
- Plants take in water through the leaves instead of the roots.
- Plants obtain their “food” from the soil through their roots.
- Plants can live in the dark as long as they are kept warm; in other words, sunlight is needed to keep plants warm rather than to provide the means of photosynthesis.
- Some plants, such as trees, aren’t really plants. In other words, students may be selective about what they consider to be “plants.”
Investigation 1: General Introduction and Overview of Plants
What qualifies a living organism to be considered a plant, and how do plants survive?
- Computer and access to the Internet
- Large sack
- Small stones
- Metal tube
- Sticks/rods for supporting the sack
- Markers/paint for decorating the sack (optional)
- Ask students to brainstorm ways in which plants and humans are similar and different. Then ask them to brainstorm what a possible definition for ‘plants’ could be.
- Draw a Venn Diagram on the board with one bubble labeled “Human” and the other bubble labeled “Plant.” Have students call out what they would put in each bubble.
- Point out that one major similarity between humans (all animals) and plants is that they both need water and food. The difference is the way in which they obtain these necessities.
- Explain that most plants need soil, water, and the sun to grow. Introduce the Magic Garden Project, which is being utilized in harsh environments such as sub-Saharan Africa (i.e. Kenya) where water is scarce and strong sunlight causes evaporation.
- Begin the Magic Garden. More information on how to create one can be found here: http://www.sendacow.org.uk/lessonsfromafrica/resources/bag-gardens
Investigation 2: How Plants Survive: Evapotranspiration and Photosynthesis
It is optional whether this is a class demonstration or whether groups of studentseach have the necessary materials. (Source: http://www.growingchefs.ca/great-celery-experiment)
How do plants take in water and produce their food?
- Notebook and pencils
- 1 celery stalk
- Food coloring
- Clear cup filled with water
- Paring knife
- Magnifying glass (optional)
- Take a clear cup, and fill it half-full with water. Add a tablespoon of food coloring, and have a celery stalk ready. Don’t put it into the water yet.
- Ask students to think about how water is carried throughout a plant. Hypothesize what will happen to the celery stalk when it is placed in the colored water. Will the entire stalk turn color or only parts of it? Have students share what they think will happen.
- Cut about three-quarters of an inch (2 cm) off the end of the stalk of celery. Putthe stalk into the water, and wait for a while. The stalk and its leaves should change color slightly. (This may take several hours.)
- Take the paring knife, and cut off about an inch (2.5 cm) of the colored stalk. Observe the end, and see how the xylem in the stalk significantly changed color.
- What happened?
- What do your observations tell you about the way that plants transport water?
- How do you think the water is able to travel upward from the roots to the leaves?
- Review the discussion questions with the students, and use them to explain the concept of evapotranspiration through the xylem.
- Ask students: Why do plants need water?
- Explain the process of photosynthesis, in which water is a crucial element (see: http://www.growingchefs.ca/how-plants-eat).
Investigation 3: How Plants Contribute to the Ecosystem
Why are plants important to us and other animals?
- The Great Kapok Tree, by Lynne Cherry
- Have students brainstorm reasons why they think plants are important to human and animal survival.
- Have students share their reasons.
- Explain that plants are universal to all of the world’s countries. Introduce The Great Kapok Tree, by Lynne Cherry, and briefly talk about the Amazon rain forest. Read the book to the students.
- Ask the students to call out each animal that appeared in the book, and tell what each said to the man to convince him not to cut down the tree. Write their responses on the board.
- Point out major things that plants provide to animals (habitat, oxygen, food, etc.).
1. How Plants Adapt to Different Ecosystems
Provide pictures of different plants from different ecosystems, and have students guess which environment these plants live in (i.e., desert, forest, etc).
2. Plants in Your Daily Life
Ask students to compile a list of all the plants in their lives. These could be fruits, veggies, and grains in their lunch; cotton, dye, and other materials in their clothing; obscure chemicals in their medicine; grass in their yards; trees that were turned into paper; etc. Some responses might be surprising!