Tuesday 7 January 2014

Growing Plants and Finding Out More About Them

Growing Plants and Finding Out More About Them
There are several fun classroom activities that will get children interested in growing plants and finding out more about them. Some of these activities were what first captured my imagination as a child, and are the reason I still love growing plants to this day.

I hope this Hub will give any teachers or parents, reading it, some good ideas they can try out on their pupils or children. I promise you the kids love it.
Growing a Runner Bean
All the children need for this activity is an empty clear glass pickle jar or similar. A sheet of blotting paper or several sheets of kitchen roll and a runner bean seed. The method is simple. Roll the blotting paper or sheets of kitchen roll into a tube that you can insert into the jar. Wedge a runner bean seed between the blotting paper / kitchen roll and the side of the jar.

Add about an inch of water to the bottom of the jar. The water will travel up the blotting paper or kitchen roll, and the bean will begin to germinate. Keep the water level topped up, and the children can watch as the bean produces a whole root system at a phenomenal rate. Ultimately they can then pot this bean on into a plastic pot of compost, take it home, and later plant it out in their own garden with a bamboo cane for support. The exciting thing will be them being able to eat their own beans at the end of the experiment.

Grow an Avocado Stone

Save the stone from inside an Avocado pear. Get an empty clear glass jar, then insert three or four cocktail sticks into the sides of the avocado stone.
Balance the stone on top of the jar using the cocktail sticks as support. Add enough water to the jar so that the bottom of the stone is submerged. Ensure the water stays topped up to this level.

 After a week or so you will see the avocado stone produce a root system and you can continue to grow it on until it is ready to be potted on into a good quality compost.

Grow a Carrot Top

Get hold of the top of a carrot, (the bit you usually chop off where the foliage used to be).
Place this carrot top in a saucer full of water and keep topped up. Over the next few weeks the carrot will sprout new foliage and continue to thrive unless you allow the water to dry up.

 I believe this will work with pineapples too, and no doubt with parsnips etc.

Growing a Cutting

Growing a cutting can be fun too. I recommend Fuchsia's or Geraniums as they are easy to grow.
Firstly get a cutting by taking a section of non-flowering stem and cut it free with a clean knife from just below a leaf joint.
Remove the leaves immediately above the cut.
Get hold of a thin sheet of polystyrene and punch some small holes in it. Thread the stems of your cuttings though the holes so the remaining leaves are on the top surface of the polystyrene.
Obtain a tray or tub suitable for holding water and fill to virtually the top. Float the polystyrene complete with the cuttings on top of the water, or if the jar is small enough you can balance the cutting within the water using its leaves to suspend it on the neck of the jar, and without the need for polystyrene (as per the right hand image).
Change the water every couple of days, and before too long your cuttings will produce a root system. Then cut away the polystyrene from the cuttings, and they can carefully be potted on into 3" pots of compost.
Bean Sprouts, Mung Beans or Mustard and Cress

All of these grow fast, (about a week to ten days) and can easily be grown on a damp piece of tissue, cotton wool or a tiny amount of compost in a saucer or old margarine tub. Children love to watch things happen quickly, and the best bit is they can eat the end results. Just make sure the tissue or compost never dries out. For more information see the articles on my own website about either growing cress or growing Mung Bean sprouts. These are also ideal 'pocket money makers' for children all year round.

A Vegetable Plot

Lastly, if your school or home is lucky enough to have a piece of spare land attached, why not allow the children to have their very own vegetable plot. This allows them to choose the plants they want to grow, plus having the fun of harvesting the end results. Start off small, with maybe a 4 metre x 4 metre plot per pupil, and if they take to it you can always enlarge the plot next year (space allowing). We did this at secondary school, and I loved it, especially when I went home at the end of term with a huge black sack full of vegetables for my family.

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