A Peek into 2nd Grade Science

A 2nd grader plants seeds in the garden
In conversation with science teacher Alyssa
What is an essential question that 2nd grade grappled with in the spring semester?
What do plants need to survive?
What is a project that the class engaged in to further explore this essential question?
In conjunction with the homecorner unit on roots, students began to investigate plants’ biological needs. At the start of the unit, students confidently predicted that plants needed water, soil, light, and space to grow. However, when we tested our hypotheses, we discovered that the reality was a bit more complex. Here are some of our stranger findings:
  • Plants can sprout in complete darkness! Students planted radishes in two conditions: darkness and full sun. They found that the radishes grown in the darkness were sickly yellow. However, when we took them out of their container and placed them in full sunlight, they grew into healthy plants.
  • Plants can sprout without soil! We observed how bean seeds planted in wet paper towels by 3rd graders still grew into young seedlings.
  • Plants grow towards light! Each 2nd grader worked to create their own chia pet. Students drew faces on paper towel stick-people and covered them with grass seeds. They had to decide how they would place their chia pet under a grow light so the hair would grow in their desired direction. Some students, hoping for a mullet or ponytail, placed their grasshead facedown, while others who wanted the “straight-up hair” stood their chia pet up in a glass. Two weeks later, students had an incredible time styling their grassheads’ hair!
What growth did you see in your students as they worked towards understanding of this essential question?
Scientific exploration allows us to test the limits of our understanding about the world around us. Second graders began this unit with a basic understanding of plant needs. Throughout the course of this line of inquiry, these understandings grew in complexity. Furthermore, the results of our experiments gave rise to new questions like, If a seed can sprout with no light, can it also sprout with no water? (It cannot). Or, Do some plants prefer less light than others? (They do!) At the end of the unit, students could articulate the survival needs of plants with more nuance and specificity. And finally, this investigation helped students to think more deeply about their natural world. After this unit, many 2nd graders dedicated their break time to identifying maple trees or foraging for onion grass. It’s incredible to see students engaging with the natural world at such a young age!