Let's Plan an Experiment: What do Plants Need?

TeachEngineering: author Mary R. Hebrank
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Experiment/Lab 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.



Students learn the needs of plants by designing and conducting experiments that control the amount of water and light the plants receive. They measure plant growth over time using non-standard measurements and record their findings using comparative graphs which they analyze to draw conclusions about the needs of living things. Click on the link to view the associated activity (Light Plants and Dark Plants...) in order to view the full resource for this review. This link is on the opening page of this resource. https://www.teachengineering.org/view_activity.php?url=collection/duk_/activities/duk_sunflower_mary_act/duk_sunflower_mary_act.xml

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Early Elementary
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

K-LS1-1 Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.

Clarification Statement: Examples of patterns could include that animals need to take in food but plants do not; the different kinds of food needed by different types of animals; the requirement of plants to have light; and, that all living things need water.

Assessment Boundary: none

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Utilize the suggested background-building to help students make connections to the needs of all living things.

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
Follow the lesson as suggested adapting the activity as necessary for younger students. Provide supports for the data collection, i.e. large group charts and help recording information that the students provide verbally. Allow students to express their understanding as developmentally appropriate, through drawing, written word, or verbally.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Since this lesson directly relates to the needs of light and water to plant growth, the DCI is explicitly expressed in this lesson. Including the suggested discussions and questions will help students relate the needs of plants to other living things.

Crosscutting Concepts

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Follow through the wrap-up of the lesson being sure to allow time for students to do the graphing and analysis activity. Guide their understanding toward specifically identifying patterns in plant growth throughout the duration of the activity. This activity potentially takes several weeks to complete.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This resource, used in its entirety, is an excellent example of ways to engage young children in experimental design, data collection, and analysis with the goal of identifying patterns and drawing conclusions.

  • Instructional Supports: Instructors should utilize the lesson plan with fidelity in order to take full advantage of the instructional supports that are built in to the lesson. The lesson enables students to activate prior knowledge, make and record individual observations, and make decisions about the design of the experiment. It utilizes developmentally appropriate ways to measure (inch cubes) and record (simple bar graph) changes. This lesson also allows for students to express their understanding verbally, in writing, or through drawing.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The resource includes ideas for assessment but is largely dependent on the teacher incorporating assessment over time as well as at the end of the experiment. The summative assessment activity is developmentally appropriate for young children.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: There is no interactive use of technology in this resource.