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

TeachEngineering: author Mary R. Hebrank
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Experiment/Lab Activity , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Activity
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 identify the physical needs of animals. Through classroom discussion, students speculate on the needs of plants. With teacher guidance, students then design an experiment that can take place in the classroom to test whether or not plants need light and water in order to grow. Students conduct the associated activity in which sunflower seeds are planted in plastic cups, and once germinated, are exposed to different conditions. In the classroom setting, students test for the effects of light versus darkness, and watered versus non-watered conditions. During exposure of the plants to these different conditions, students measure growth of the seedlings every few days using non-standard measurement. After a few weeks, students compare the growth of plants exposed to the different conditions, and make pictorial bar graphs that demonstrate these comparisons.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 2
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
With teacher guidance, students are involved in the planning of the investigation to test for the effects of light versus darkness, and watered versus non-watered conditions. Students share their investigation plans. So that the students are actively planning the investigation, the teacher listens to all ideas without directly stating that an idea or some aspect of it won't work. The teacher also asks leading questions to get the student to realize that a better way might exist.

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
Students are active participants in the planning and conducting of this investigation. They share their ideas for how the investigation should be set up, how the plants should be placed in dark/light areas and how to provide water. Provide opportunities for measuring with standard and non-standard measurements based upon your grade level expectations for measurement.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Once the seeds have germinated, the students will begin their investigations for the different conditions of light/darkness and soil moisture. It is important that the non-watered plants are planted in the light beside the watered plants. For the students to find out if plants will grow in darkness, they must be handled the same as plants in the light so both plants must be watered. Numerous books for children also address how plants adapt to live in their habitats based on the light and moisture levels.

Crosscutting Concepts

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
After the students have completed their investigation and reached a conclusion, the teacher has the students look back over the entire process of planning and conducting an investigation. Have a discussion with the students about how the process helped them answer their questions. In the "Activity Extensions" section of this lesson plan, students could do another investigation to see if plants grow better in nutrient enriched soil or just top soil.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The lesson is gradeā€appropriate. Elements of the science and engineering practice(s), disciplinary core idea, and crosscutting concept, work together to support students in their discovery that plants need water and light to survive. As the students seek answers to their questions, they record their observations and chart the plants' growth and development. Connections to the common core state standards are evident in the measurement of the plants, written observations, data analysis, and evidenced based claims to answer the questions.

  • Instructional Supports: Students plan and conduct their own investigations about whether plants need light and water to survive. The resource has connections to math and language arts standards because the students record data and written observations about plant growth. The students also have to make claims based on evidence provided by the data or their observations. Accommodations for differentiated instruction are not provided. Activity extensions are listed for students who have already met the performance expectation or who have high interest in the topic.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: No formal assessment or rubric is included. Students do collect and record data. Written observations of the plants' growth are also recorded by the student so teachers can assess for learning and misconceptions.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -