Plant Parts: Hands-On Science Activities for Young Children

By Tracey Bleakley

These fun and easy science experiments are perfect for teaching young children about the parts of a plant and their functions. Use these activities as part of your plant unit for primary grade students.

These plant parts activities are great ways to familiarize your primary students with plants. They will learn all about the parts of plants and their functions. They will also practice important science skills like observing, predicting and recording information.

Seed Activities

These activities are easy ways to teach your students about seeds and what they do.

Lima Bean Observation

At some point during your plant unit you are probably planning on planting Lima beans. Before you do, let your students observe the parts of the bean. Soak Lima beans in water overnight. Give each student a bean, a paper towel and a magnifying glass. Point out the outer layer of the seed, called the seed coat. Then show them how to carefully break open the seed and the baby plant (embryo) inside the seed. Have the children draw and label the seed in their science notebooks and discuss the seed's job - to grow a new plant. When you are finished, read a book like I Am a Seed by Jean Marzollo to the class.

Counting Seeds

Bring in a variety of fruits, like lemons, apples, grapefruits, mangoes, avocados, squash and tomatoes. Before you teach this lesson, cut each fruit in half. Show the children the different fruits that you have brought and ask them which one they think has the most seeds and which has the least.

Write down their predictions on a piece of chart paper. Give each pair of students one fruit to observe. Instruct them to find and remove the seeds and put them on a paper plate or paper towel. Then have them observe the seeds with a magnifying glass and count how many seeds are in their fruit. In their science notebooks have them draw a picture of their seed and write about what they observed. Ask them to include the name of their fruit, the number of seeds they counted and a description of their seeds. When everyone is finished, let the children share their observations and graph the number of seeds in each fruit.

Studying Flowers

Bring in several different kinds of flowers for the children to look at. Talk about why the flowers are brightly colored. Show the children where to find the pollen and let them observe it with a magnifying glass. They can even smudge some of the pollen into their science notebooks by gently pressing the flowers onto their papers. In their science notebooks have the children write about the different types of flowers they saw. The Reason for a Flower by Ruth Heller is a great book to share with your students about pollination and the flower's job of making seeds.

If your school has a flower garden, or flower beds that are in bloom, take the children out to look for any butterflies and bees that might be there. Let the children observe what the insects are doing and write about it or draw a picture in their science notebooks.

Examining Roots

To demonstrate the function of roots, give pairs of students a strip of a paper towel and a small cup of water. Have them dip one end of the paper towel into the water and observe what happens. The water will move up the paper towel. Explain that this is how roots work, sucking water and nutrients from the ground up to the other parts of the plants.

Another root activity is to bring in some plants with their roots intact and let the students observe the roots. Dig up weeds and shake off most of the dirt. Ask the children why there is dirt on the roots. Talk about how the roots are underground and that they also have the job of holding the plant into the ground so that it doesn't just blow away.

Stems Experiment

Here is a simple experiment to demonstrate the function of stems. Place a white carnation and a stick of celery into separate containers of water. Add a dark food coloring like red or blue to the water and mark the water level on the container. Over the next several days observe what happens to the plants and the water. You may want to mark the water each day. As the water level goes down the petals of the carnation and the leaves of the celery will begin to change to the color of the food coloring.

Ask the children why they think this is happening - because it is the stem's job to carry water to the flower and leaves of plants. It works like a straw to suck the water up. Have them write about the experiment in their science notebooks, drawing pictures of the plants on the first day and again several days later.

The Importance of Leaves

Use this easy experiment to teach your students about the function of a plant's leaves and introduce them to the process of photosynthesis. Bring in two small, leafy plants. Ask the children to predict what will happen if you take all of the leaves off one of the plants. Carefully remove the leaves from one plant. Place both plants in a sunny spot and water and care for them the same way over the next few weeks. If the plant without leaves grows new ones, remove them too. Observe what happens to the two plants and discuss. Explain that the leaves job is to make food for the plants. Without the leaves, the plant can't make food and dies.

These simple plant experiments for plant parts will help young children become plant experts. They'll have fun learning about plant parts while participating in hands-on science activities.