Water Movement Through Plants

DuPont: Clear into the Classroom
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan , Experiment/Lab 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.


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Students explore differences in the amount of water taken up by different types of plants through student designed investigations. This lesson is one in a series of "Clear into the Classroom" lessons, a Dupont initiative.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
  • Grade 4
  • Grade 3
  • Grade 2
  • Grade 5
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

5-LS1-1 Support an argument that plants get the materials they need for growth chiefly from air and water.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the idea that plant matter comes mostly from air and water, not from the soil.

Assessment Boundary: none

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This activity builds toward meeting this performance expectation by engaging students in an opportunity to observe, measure and compare the amounts of water taken up through the stems of different types of plants. Lesson Extension #1 might be done alongside the main investigation in order to empirically demonstrate that plants need water for growth rather than simply taking it up through their stems. Teachers should be sure to emphasize the essential roles of sun and air in the process of plant growth to develop a more complete understanding of the process.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The lesson plan directs the teacher to ask for students' ideas about designing the investigation and to guide the students to control for a list of specific variables, though without providing detail. The primary focus is on conducting the investigation, but this practice can be more fully addressed if the teacher gives explicit instruction in investigation design and the opportunity for students to carry out varied designs, which could be evaluated later.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Although plants' need for air is not addressed, students empirically determine that plants take up water through their stems. Discussion of the need for air and sunlight, as well as some mention of nutrients from soil, will build a more complete picture of the process of plant growth and transpiration. To more fully address this Core Idea, students or the teacher could design experiments demonstrating plants' need for air using petroleum jelly or sealed bags with the air removed.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
This activity clearly demonstrates the transport of matter in the form of the flow of water into plant stems, although this is done through volume, rather than mass measurements. It is also suggested that consideration of plants as systems and of their interactions with Earth's systems are important in order to provide context for this activity, and consideration of where the water taken up by the plant goes provides an opportunity to build toward an understanding of conservation of mass.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This simple activity provides a phenomenon that can lead to understanding of one aspect of plant growth. Students could be given the idea of the investigation prior to the background information and vocabulary suggested to be presented at the start of the lesson. Making sense of the data they generated would build toward an understanding of the core idea. Students could also engage more fully in scientific practices by graphing and presenting their data, and by creating models to explain the phenomenon.

  • Instructional Supports: This lesson as written is best suited to use as an introductory phenomenon. Limited instructional supports are provided in the form of assessment questions and ideas for extension. The resource does not include any differentiation for students on different instructional levels. For struggling learners, the teacher could provide pre-made data sheets for the students to fill in as they collect their data. Expanding the investigation in the ways suggested can provide opportunity for extension and to more fully engage in scientific practices. Designing followup investigations to answer questions generated by students can deepen understanding. The activity is part of a 12-lesson program on the theme of water and waterways that includes lessons suggested for different elementary levels.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Formative assessment opportunities are present during the activity, although no suggestions or guidance is provided. Broad assessment questions to be answered in writing or discussed are listed with some suggestion as to the nature of expected answers, but the lesson plan does not includes aligned rubrics or scoring guidelines that could provide guidance for interpreting student performance along the three dimensions. Students with limited English or writing proficiency might create a visual model to demonstrate understanding of the Disciplinary Core Idea.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not include a technologically interactive component.