Our Plant Unit

26 Mar

As my son’s only 4, and we’re not yet doing classical education fully, I think it’s a nice time to do some interest-based unit studies. With the approach of spring, my son began showing curiosity about plants. He was very eager to get some seeds and ‘grow things.’ We couldn’t go into any shop without him wanting to look at the seed display.

We bought a few packets of seeds, went to the library and got a ton of books on plants: DK Eye Know Plant and How Do Plants Grow? were 2 of them. The DK book is excellent. It goes into detail about many of the things made from plants. It has fantastic photos and lift-the-flaps; I can’t recommend it enough.

The crayola website has a nice plant craft that my son really enjoyed doing. After he coloured the flowers and cut them out, he used glue to decorate them. This made them really bright and beautiful. He loved the glitter so much that he used glitter glue on the colouring page I gave him, instead of crayons.

He also did a lovely craft from the first-school website called the family/unity/peace hand flower craft .

Hands on:
We planted some bean seeds in a clear glass jar using cotton instead of compost. We stuffed the jar with the cotton, inserted a knife down the side, and dropped the bean in, and added water. We did about 5 beans. The beans sprouted within a few days. I think it would have been sooner if we had soaked the beans for a day or so, but I didn’t know to do this.

After a couple of weeks, we transplanted the beans into compost. It was difficult disentangling the roots from the cotton. There’s about 10 days difference between these 2 pictures (I think…we’re so laid back at this point; no scientific approach in this house!)

We’ve also been growing cress (so easy), and we’re planning to stick a lemon seed in some compost and see what happens.

The Work:
Because my son had a strong interest, the ‘work’ aspect has been quite enjoyable for him. Each day we read one of the library books and I asked him questions about it. Before long, he could name the roots, root hairs, shoot/stem, leaves, leaf buds, stomata (he likes that one), and flower. He can tell me that plants need water, air, and light to make food. He understands (vaguely) about the water cycle. He doesn’t complain any more when the sun gets into his eyes because he knows how important the sunlight is.

After reading the DK book a few times, and discussing the many uses of plants, we did a little project where we went around the house listing all the things we could find that were made from plants. Here’s a nice resource for that. We used this list for our poster project (see below).

I decided to introduce some copywork. I downloaded a booklet from the Enchanted Learning website. (this one’s only available to site members). I cut out the pages so the booklet was in the shape of a bean. Each day I gave him a page to colour and copy the sentence. He really enjoyed this. When it was completed, he stapled the 6 pages together.

Another plant copy work project is available here at the Time For Kids website. (This is a great site, that has lots of great things, as well as more plant-related stuff.) We haven’t gotten around to doing this copy work project.

The Poster:
I saw this fantastic idea on the internet. You take a flower template, cut the petals so they can be lifted like a lift-the-flap, glue it to a blank sheet of paper, and do with it as you like. We labelled each petal with the following: 3 things that plants need to make food, 2 things that roots take from the soil, 3 things in the kitchen and bathroom that are made from plants, 3 things in the living room that are made from plants, 3 things in the bedroom that are made from plants. We decided what we would write underneath each petal, then I wrote it out and he copied it. He also labelled some of the parts of the plant. It took 3 days to do it. By the end of it, he was fairly tired of writing things. But after a few days, he began asking me to spell words for him to write.

Putting it all together:
Basically, each day we would read one of the children’s books on plants, discuss it, do a plant craft, observe our plants, and some days do some copy work. I figured after 3 weeks of this he would be tired of plants (I was), but he’s told me he wants to learn more about plants. I think we’ll take a breather, and if he’s still interested, we’ll pursue it.

I have to say, I’ve taken great enjoyment in growing things. I’ve been growing cress, which I’ve never really liked, but for some reason it seems to taste better when you’ve grown it yourself. I’ve been saving seeds from fruits and vegetables and plant to stick them into some compost and see what happens.


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