Use a Dandelion to Teach Students How Plants Grow
Teaching young kids the beginning part of the life cycle of a plant is fairly easy. Most children have planted seeds and watched them sprout and grow into a flower or a bean. However it's harder for them to visualize plants making new seeds to see the life cycle begin again. Use this lesson to take advantage of those dandelions that pop up everywhere in early spring and let your students see the life cycle of a plant in action.
This lesson takes place over a couple of weeks, but when you are finished young kids will have a much clearer understanding of the life cycle of a plant.
Materials for the Lesson
- Book about dandelions - The Dandelion Seed by Joseph P. Anthony or Dandelions: Stars in the Grass by Mia Posada
- Dandelions growing wild that are accessible to the students
- Craft Sticks, one per child
- Science notebooks or journals
- Pencils, crayons and markers
- Rulers and hand lenses
- Paper plates
Students should be familiar with the idea that plants grow from seeds. Let them plant Lima beans or other seeds before starting this lesson.
Ask the class if they know what dandelions are. Then read them a book about dandelions. Discuss the book with the class, paying special attention to what is happening when the yellow flowers turn to seed. Talk about where they might have seen dandelions growing.
Tell the children that they are going to be observing some dandelions of their own over the next few weeks. Give each child a craft stick and have him write his name on it with a marker. Permanent markers are useful to help stave off the effects of weathering on the child's name.
Take the class outside to an area of the school grounds where dandelions are plentiful and have each child choose a dandelion to observe. More than one child may observe the same plant. Show them how to put their craft sticks in the ground next to their flowers so that they can easily find them each time they observe.
Bring the children outside to observe the flowers every day or two. Have them write their observations in their science journals. (If you don't have journals, you can easily make an observation notebook by stapling together several half-sheets of paper with a cover that says My Dandelion Observations.) Make sure they include the date each time they observe and that they use both pictures and words to record. Bring a basket of rulers and hand lenses out with each time in case any children want to measure their plants or look at them up close.
Continue your observations until most of the dandelions have turned to seed and the seeds have blown away. Discuss the children's observations about the life cycle of dandelion.
To assess give each child a paper plate and show him how to divide it into pie pieces. Then let the children use their observation to make a life cycle of a dandelion on the paper plates. The life cycles should include the seeds taking root in the ground and the seeds sprouting and growing leaves (The children won't have seen these parts, but should be able to add them based on the book read, the class discussions and their other experiences with plants.) They should also include the flower, the flower turning to seeds and the seeds blowing away.
Try these extension activities during the time that your students are learning about the dandelion life cycle.
- At some point during the study bring in a dandelion flower and another type of flower and let the children observe them with hand lenses at the science center. Have them draw and label the two plants and write about how they are the same and different.
- Read The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle and talk about why plants make so many seeds and what can happen to them.
This lesson on the dandelion's life cycle is the perfect way to teach young kids about the life cycle of other plants.