Plan activities to encourage observation of plant growth

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

1 Up and up ADULT-LED

1 Up and up


Grow some sunflowers.

Key learning intentions

Find out about and identify some features of living things they observe

Begin to understand past and present

Adult:child ratio 1:4


Sunflower seeds, trowel, compost, small stones, watering cans, large sticky labels, pens, builder's tray, assorted flower pots.

Activity content

* Recall the earlier planting activities (see 'Roots and shoots', page 8).

* Give the children opportunities to explore the seeds and notice the patterns on them.

* Encourage each child to write their name on a label, offering help as necessary, to select a flower pot and to attach the label.

* The children should take turns to put small stones in their pot, add the compost from the tray, select two seeds, bed them in the compost and water them.

* Place the planted seeds in a sheltered, sunny position. Germination generally takes place in a week or two in May, to flower in August or September.

* When the seeds are about 10cm tall, send the pots home, with clear instructions for parents/carers about how to grow the sunflowers in large pots or open ground.

* Transfer some seedlings into outdoor tubs and monitor their growth with the children.

Things to say

* Model key vocabulary: seeds, seedlings, compost, soil, trowel, flower pot, sunflower, leaves, stem, flower, petals.

* What do you notice about the patterns on the sunflower seeds? Which ones are the same? Which ones are different?

* When you take your sunflower home, where will you continue to grow it?

Stepping stones

* Children with little experience will show curiosity and interest in the activity through facial expression, movement or sound. They may become absorbed in investigating the resources.

* Children with some experience will observe, manipulate and comment on the resources. They may ask questions to find out more. They will generally make connections with, and talk about, other recent similar events

* Children with more experience will investigate the resources. They will make connections with, and talk about, similar experiences, making comparisons and noticing differences. They will often predict what will happen next, ask detailed questions and make their own suggestions.

Extension ideas

* Look at fiction and non-fiction books about sunflowers.

* Monitor the growth of the sunflowers in the setting and ask parents to share information about the sunflowers with their children at home. When the sunflowers are fully grown, invite every family to a 'Grand Sunflower Celebration', when parents can photograph their child next to their sunflower. Make a display and give the children lots of opportunities to discuss their sunflowers.

* Harvest the flower heads in the autumn with the children. Let them explore the seed heads, take one apart and separate the seeds. Keep some seeds for sowing the following year, some for baking, sorting or creative work and some to feed the birds.

2 Dig deep


Organise a designated digging and watering area.


Wellington boots, child-sized forks, shovels and trowels, sieves, buckets, laminated identification photographs about minibeasts, watering cans, shallow trays, magnifiers, water butt.

Play possibilities

* Digging and transporting soil.

* Investigating the soil and finding/identifying the different minibeasts.

* Developing garden and builder role play.

* Filling buckets and watering cans from the water butt.

* Working collaboratively to move heavy objects.

Things to do and say

* Situate the water butt firmly on a stand so that the children can access the water independently. Fill the water butt daily.

* Check the digging area daily and, where possible, cover it at night.

* How many worms have you found? What do you think the worms are doing in the soil? Why do you think they are important?

* What can you do to make the dry soil easier to dig? How are you going to transport the water from the water butt to the other side of the digging area?

Possible learning outcomes

* Uses tools and equipment safely and with increasing confidence.

* Makes connections between imaginative role play and home experiences.

* Responds to significant experiences.

* Interacts with others.

* Asks questions about why things happen.

* Recognises the changes that happen to their bodies when they are active.

3 Big and bright


Provide resources for painting sunflowers.


Books and posters with photographs of paintings of sunflowers (including the work of Vincent Van Gogh), ready-mixed paints, mixing palettes, assorted brushes, sponges, easel, large table, large piece of sugar paper, growing sunflowers.

Play possibilities

* Observing the sunflowers.

* Representing the sunflowers through paint.

* Expressing and communicating their ideas through paint.

* Mixing the paints and matching the colours to the leaves and flowers.

* Exploring other paintings of sunflowers in the books or on the posters.

Things to do and say

* Encourage the children to talk about their creations.

* Which colour do you think is best for the flower? How can you make that yellow darker/brighter?

* How do you think you can show that the sunflower is very tall?

* Why do you think the artist painted the sunflower like that? What do you like about the painting?

Possible learning outcomes

* Responds to what is seen.

* Uses imagination in art and design.

* Explores colour, shape and form in two dimensions.

* Talks about features that they like and dislike.

* Uses resources independently.

* Uses talk to reflect on experiences.

4 Tree time


Encourage the children to think about how trees appear and change over the seasons.


Pens, pencils and crayons, clipboards, paints, assorted paper, PVA adhesive and spreaders, magnifiers, small wicker baskets, information texts about trees, laminated photographs of trees in winter.

Play possibilities

* Going into the outdoor area or to a local park for collecting and sorting leaves, bark and twigs.

* Using the magnifiers for close observation.

* Making bark rubbings.

* Drawing or painting the trees.

* Making leaf prints or collages.

Things to do and say

* Set up the resources near trees outdoors and encourage the children to observe the trees.

* Support the children's individual learning interests and needs.

* What have you collected in your basket? What are you going to do with the leaves?

* Can you remember when the trees looked like this? What was different about the trees then and now? What is the same?

Possible learning outcomes

* Notices similarities and differences.

* Selects resources independently.

* Uses a range of graphical media.

* Talks about past and present events.

* Sorts objects using own criteria.

* Uses past tense accurately in everyday, familiar situations.

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