Do Plants Need Water?

Utah Education Network in partnership with the Utah State Board of Education and Higher Ed Utah.
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Activity , Lesson/Lesson Plan
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



In this resource, students examine the need for seeds to have water for optimum growth in the first investigation. Students will discuss the key components needed for plant growth and survival. Students will conduct their own investigation about the needs of plants in a second activity.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
  • Early Elementary
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

2-LS2-1 Plan and conduct an investigation to determine if plants need sunlight and water to grow.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to testing one variable at a time.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students will conduct the first investigation to compare the growth of seeds planted at varying distances from a water source. A second activity allows the student to conduct their own investigation to determine what a plant needs to grow. Students will choose what condition they will use to figure out what is needed for a seed to sprout. It is suggested that a science journal be used by the students to record observations. The observation notes will help provide the learner with evidence for their claims about what a plant needs for growth at the end of the investigation.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Two investigations take place in this resource to determine whether plants need sunlight and water to grow. For the first activity, the teacher should pose a question or have students develop one prior to investigating if seeds need water to grow. Students should be guided to develop an essential question to use as the focus for their group investigation of a plant's needs in the second activity. Observation notes (data) should be recorded by the students for both investigations to use as evidence to answer the question developed at the start of each investigation.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The first activity in the resource focuses on students learning that seeds need water to germinate. The second activity is the student group’s choice to conduct their own investigation based on another need that the students think a plant requires to grow. It is suggested that teachers guide the class groups in the planning of the plant investigation, making sure that at least one group is conducting an investigation to see if plants need sunlight to grow. After the investigations are finished, student group results need to be reported to the whole class so each student learns that plants need water and sunlight to grow.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The teacher will need to guide students to answer their investigation questions using a claim with evidence based on their observation notes. Answering the investigation question leads to the crosscutting concept. If the plant does not get water, it will not grow. If the plant does not get sunlight, it does not grow well. The teacher may need to point out the cause (no water or sunlight) and the effect (limited or no plant growth) relationship that results. Most plants need plenty of water and sunlight to grow. This can lead into a discussion about shade plants vs. sun-loving plants or even succulent plants.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: All three dimensions are not addressed equally. Students do plan and conduct their own investigation to determine the needs of the plant for growth, but the students do not have to select water or sunlight as stated in the performance expectation and the core idea. With teacher guidance, a group of students in the class should be investigating sun and water's effect on the plant. Students should be able to see the effect of no sunlight or no water on the plant's growth. Making the connection that this is an observable cause and effect relationship of plants may require the teacher to provide guiding questions to realize this crosscutting concept.

  • Instructional Supports: Students are motivated to do a whole class investigation about plant growth. Students utilize observational skills and a descriptive vocabulary to articulate similarities and differences in the plants they observe. They make comparisons of size, color, and height. Added enthusiasm will occur when students pick their own plant growth need to investigate. The use of a driving or essential question is suggested to guide the students to make a claim and show or report the relevant evidence to support their thinking. After the group investigations, classmates have the opportunity to evaluate and interpret student responses, and even ask questions for clarity of responses when necessary. Reviewing what students learned about conditions that impact the growth of plants from the first investigation and comparing the results as a class helps students discuss the conclusions. Students will then be able to make connections between the two investigations’ results (plants need water and sunlight) with the crosscutting concept. Teachers may need to offer guiding questions for students to see the crosscutting concept that events have causes that generate observable patterns.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Teachers can assess student understanding through the questions being asked and the student responses. Learning logs or observation journals are suggested for students to record their plant observations. To strengthen the monitoring of student progress, students need to record and share out their answer to the investigation’s driving question with a claim and evidence. This allows teachers to see which students are using all three dimensions to make sense of the phenomenon.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -