With the COVID-19 virus affecting Canadians, teachers and students turned to a virtual school environment. For many families, it has been nice to share the load of teaching and learning from home.
Hands-on learning has become something we can now do together.
In the classroom, there are often time limits that hinder a child’s full exploration of scientific topics. At home, your child can test multiple hypotheses and spend hours or days on a singular activity.
Within our own home, we explored soil-free planters and compared them to seeds started traditionally in soil. This activity requires few supplies and allows for multiple trials.
- seeds (preferably bean seeds),
- ziplock bag,
- 2-litre pop bottle (preferably clear),
- cotton balls,
- modelling clay, and
- bamboo skewers.
Building your soil free planter
- Cut five pieces of string as long as the bottle.
- Cut the bottle 5 inches from the top.
- Place the top section of the bottle upside down in the bottom section. Remove any caps beforehand.
- Pour water into the bottom section, stopping below the neck of the bottle
- Feed four strings through the neck of the bottle so that most of the string in in the bottom section, leaving 2 inches of string in the upper section.
- Put cotton balls into the top of the planter so the neck is covered then add bean seeds.
- Create three small balls with modelling clay and secure the sharp half of the wooden skewers in each.
- Secure the three skewers together with the last piece of string in a tripod setup.
- Place in a bright place. Once plants have grown their first set of leaves transplant into a pot with soil or outside in a garden.
Seeds come with enough food to support the plants until it grows its first set of leaves.
With water and warmth, seeds will grow without any soil. Water softens the outer seed coat and the heat lets them know it’s time to grow.
There are many variations of this lab and you can try several at home to compare your results. One method is to put seeds in a Ziploc bag, add a moist paper towel, seal it up and tape it to a sunny window. You can also add soil to a Ziploc bag, about a third of the bag, add your seed and a little water. Once closed, tape to a sunny window.
Comparing these two methods is fun for all ages.
Monitor how long it takes to sprout. How tall the sprouts get, how thick the stem. Transplant the plants once they have grown their leaves or are outgrowing the bag. Once transplanted, do you see a difference in the health and heartiness of the plant? Does one grow faster than the other?