Need a science/nature project? Seed identification might be the ticket!
Combine outside nature fun with some old-fashioned research and classification exercises, toss in some related writing assignments, top it off with a few arts and crafts projects, and you have all the makings of a perfect summer project! Younger children can participate on their own level with their older siblings.
Your preschooler, with your supervision, can go on a scavenger hunt for nature items in the yard: seeds and pods, leaves, twigs—anything interesting that you determine is safe (this would be an ideal time to teach your children how to identify poison ivy!). Your youngster can spend a few minutes sorting these by size and shape and color. Together, discuss the differences he observes, and ask him to see if he can guess which of the items are seeds. Take time to write some of his observations on one side of a piece of poster board. He’ll have fun gluing or taping his treasures to the poster board and decorating it. To extend this activity, take a few easy-to-grow seeds (lima beans, northern beans, and sunflower seeds are all easy to handle and grow) and place each type of seed in a separate ziplock bag; add a tiny amount of water to each bag. Seal the bag and tape it to a sunny window, and observe the seeds each day until they sprout. The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle would be a winning book to accompany this activity.
An elementary-aged child can be more discerning as he goes on a scavenger hunt, looking only for seeds and pods. Have him record the exact location of each find, to help with identification later on. He should examine each item carefully and thoroughly, noting and drawing the details of each. Hypothesizing as to what kind of plant comes from each seed is interesting (e.g., Does this tiny seed grow a large tree or a flower of some sort? Is it a weed?). Finding the botanical name, classification, and interesting snippets of information about each seed in reference books or on the Internet is his next step.
Ask your child to neatly print or write all of his findings (using good grammar, of course) on the page, next to each of his drawings, and then he can assemble all of the pages into a booklet. Your student may enjoy extending this activity by trying to get some seeds to germinate under different growing conditions (rich soil, sand, shade, sun) and comparing the results or by starting a small garden from seed. A great book to enhance this experience is Nature Close-Up: Seeds and Seedlings by Elaine Pascoe.
Mari Almon is married to Steve and they are both thrilled that their two children, Liz and Jon, had the opportunity to graduate high school from home. In her spare time, Mari enjoys traveling, making homemade crafts, and perennial gardening.
Copyright 2010. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine®, Summer 2010. Used with permission.
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