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TeachNet Grant: It's Not Easy Being Green!
Janice Bruce

Sunset Park Prep
4004 4th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11232

Grades: 7-9

About the Grant:

This unit challenges students to see plants as "real" organisms.  Students usually study animals in general and human beings in particular and never really pay attention to our most important celestial partners.  In this unit, they will delve into botany by planting a seed and watching it grow or die based on what they do to take care of it.  Prior knowledge of human anatomy and physiology will be the entry point as students connect these two very different areas of biology.  By the end of the unit, students will be able to defend plant conservation the way they could any other organism they study. Ultimately, students should have increased awareness of the lack of green spaces in urban areas and the need for more parks and gardens.

How This Grant was Adapted:

The best features of this unit are:

  1. the overall impact this unit can have in affecting the attitude of young urban students towards green environments/spaces 
  2. the use of videos and movies that connect scientific concepts to real life
  3. the fostering of scientific inquiry and investigation into natural phenomena, and scientific writing
  4. the focus on plants as "real" organisms that don't just sit there
  5. the review of human body systems and life processes that maintain homeostasis in complex organisms

By the end of this unit, students should be able to:

Objective 1: understand and use new vocabulary: classify, stomata, photosynthesis, vascular tissue, xylem, phloem, phototropism, gravitropism, pollination, fruit, pollen, ovule, stamen, pistil

Objective 2: recall the parts of a plant and a flower and their functions

Objective 3: review the body systems and the life process of a human being

Objective 4: compare and contrast the structure and functions of a plant and human being

Objective 5: make and record observations

Objective 6: conduct internet research

Objective 7: make a scrapbook

Objective 8: accurately respond to test prep questions relating to plant homeostasis

Objective 9: make and use graphic organizers

Websites Used

Link 1: http://plantsinmotion.bio.indiana.edu/plantmotion/vegetative/veg.html

Description:   Plants worshipping the light are the coolest!  I was introduced to this site in a graduate-level plant molecular biology class.  However, it was so captivating, I knew that I could use it with my students.  In particular, I wanted to illustrate the sensitivity of plants to light and gravity.  The tropisms link shows various species of plants and their reaction to different factors in their environment.  An added bonus is the time lapse format that allows students to see the whole process that might take hours in a few seconds .


Link 2: www.biology4kids.com/files/plants_main.html

Description:   Differentiating instruction.  This site contains a lot of good information about any science topic.  The great benefit here is that the language is simple enough that English Language Learners and low level readers can gain the same knowledge as higher performing students. 


Link 3: http://videos.howstuffworks.com/hsw/11886-plants-photosynthesis-video.htm

Description: Videos of everything.  This site is like a video library for all the sciences and other subject areas.  The videos are short and have accurate content.  For the students, they provide some variety and entertainment while they are learning.  Find all of your science topic videos right here.


Link 4: http://botany.org/Carnivorous_Plants/index.php

Description: Plants eating animals.  The Botanical Society of America has a splendid resource in this website.  To a botanist, this is a gold mine.  And it can be the same for kids if you direct them to the meat-eating plants.  The Venus flytrap and other similar flowers always capture kids' attention because they don't think it is possible for a plant to "eat" another organism.  The site describes 17 carnivorous and insectivorous plants in which students would be very interested.


Link 5: http://emc.maricopa.edu/faculty/farabee/BIOBK/BioBookPLANTANAT.html

Description: High-tech plant pictures.  Bring your plant anatomy lesson to life with some of these clear, colorful photos of real plant structures like cells, stomata, even the cross-section of a plant stem.  Use these for your PowerPoint presentations.


Link 6: http://abcteach.com/directory/basics/science/plants/plants

Description: Worksheet and activities, ready to use!  For any teacher, time is limited.  So, sites like this one cut some tasks down to the minimum time because there are so many things to download, print and use in the classroom.  The plant activities are many ranging from flowers, to trees to laboratory activities and project planning outlines. 


Link 7: http://brainpop.com/science/cellularlifeandgenetics/pollination

Description:  Tim and Moby save the day.  Kids like animation and this site has a lot of it.  All of the information and videos are well designed and provide teachers with another video library to use in class.  The stars of the show are a boy named Tim and his robot sidekick, Moby who discovers as Tim answers the questions.  Kids can browse this site on their own and even take the quizzes they have for some of their videos.

Standards Addressed:

Standard 1: Students will access, generate, process, and transfer information using appropriate technologies.

Grade: Middle School

Subject: Math, Science & Technology


Standard 2: Students will use mathematical analysis, scientific inquiry, and engineering design, as appropriate to pose questions, seek answers, and develop solutions.

Grade: Middle School

Subject: Math, Science & Technology


Standard 3: Students will apply the knowledge and thinking skills of mathematics, science, and technology to address real-life problems and make informed decisions.

Grade: Middle School

Subject: Math, Science & Technology


Standard 4: Students will listen, speak read, and write for information and understanding.

Grade: Middle School

Subject: English Language Arts


Standard 5: Students will listen, speak read, and write for social interaction.

Grade: Middle School

Subject: English Language Arts

Lesson 1:

Title Plant Watch.


Project Objectives

.Objective 1: make and record observations

Objective 2: complete a KWL chart



Materials 1:  soil

Materials 2:  seeds

Materials 3:  plastic cups or bowl for planting

Materials 4:   copies of K-W-L chart




Procedure 1: Ask students how many of them have ever grown a plant?  Many students might raise their hands because this is usually a project that kids do in elementary school.  Let them know that this time around, the activity will have a different focus.  Based on their level of expertise and knowledge in science, they will now analyze the growth process of a seed and use their knowledge of human anatomy and physiology as a start to understanding homeostasis in plants.


Procedure 2:  Direct students' attention to the materials on the lab table which they will use to pot their seed.  Demonstrate how much soil to use and how to bury the seed about 1 inch. Ask them to think about why they need to do this.  Let students plant their seed.


Procedure 3:  Why do we plant the seed in soil?  They should understand that the soil provides moisture and warmth for the seed to grow.  Is this the only way that we can grow a plant?  Hopefully someone knows that the seed could also be placed on moist paper and it would grow the same way.  Perhaps, a few volunteers would like to do this method so that the class could compare how well the plants grow using either method.


Procedure 4:  Distribute the KWL handout and ask students to write down what they know about plants' processes.  How do they grow? Do they need the same things as we do?  Can they grow in the dark?  Answers will vary.  From the questions written down, strategically choose a few of the ones that will be answered during the unit.  Amass all the others and have students do research on one question each night for extra credit.  Note: At the end of each lesson, students should be given the chart so that they can document what they learned.


Procedure 5: Invite students to really think about what they know about plants and admit it if they know nothing or are completely misinformed.  Assure them that this unit will show them how plants are just like us.  So, they are going to plant watch for the next couple of weeks.




Journal #1:  As if writing a lab report, write up what we did in class today.  Draw the setup and label all the materials used.  Hypothesize about what you will see in the next two or three days. 




Collect the KWL charts.  The KWL chart information will determine what students know and don't know.

Lesson 2:

Title If I were a Plant . . .


Project Objectives

Objective 1:  understand and use new vocabulary:  classify

Objective 2:  classify plants using their visible and molecular structure



Materials 1:  a few pictures of different kinds of plants including fruits, trees, grass, underwater plants, and plant-like organisms

Materials 2:  diagram of plant classification

Materials 3:  science dictionaries and/or textbooks of different reading levels




Procedure 1: Have a student recap what you did yesterday.  Then ask what they thought would happen to the plant in the next few days (based on homework).  Ask where they put the plants and how they plan to care for them. 


Procedure 2:   Let take about 5 minutes to write a paragraph of 5-7 sentences in response to the prompt: Scientist have just discovered a new organism floating in some pond water.  It is green.  How do they know whether it's a plant or animal?


Procedure 3: Show students the slides of the various plants and as a group, they should write 5 things they all have in common and 2 that make them different.  Answers will vary but they would most like write they are all green, or come from trees, or live outside most of the time, need sunlight to grow, and maybe they are made up of plant cells.  Differences might be that they have different sizes, they are not all the same color, some of them you eat and not others, and some of them grow inside.


Procedure 4:  On the board, write the ones that they share out and then begin to probe more.  For example, if someone mentioned cells, ask them to explain.  Plants are made up of plant cells and they have organelles like chloroplasts and a cell wall that are different from animal cells.  This provides a good opportunity to review cell structure and function.


Procedure 5:  Once you've covered two similarities and two differences in-depth, explain that scientists do what they did to classify organisms.  They have already classified many organisms and that has given us the evolutionary tree of life.  Specifically, show them the plant family tree.  If their textbooks have a section, they should look at information about classifying plants.


Procedure 6:  What does it mean to classify?  You should arrive at a definition that encompasses organizing and studying things.  The notes can include: 1.What is classification?  2.How do we classify an organism? 


Procedure 8: Give students their KWL chart to fill in.  Collect for next lesson.



  1. Complete journal entry #2.
  2. Complete the statement:  If I were a plant . . .



Students' KWL should indicate whether they understood classification or the structure of a plant.  Before the next class, have an entry slip with a question about today's lesson.

Lesson 3:

Title No, Plants Don't have Bones or Muscles


Project Objectives

Objective 1:  learn the parts of a plant and their function

Objective 2:  take notes on information from the computer and the text



Materials 1:   an actual plant or a large picture of a plant

Materials 2:  projector with computer and internet connection

Materials 3:  a computer for each group of students

Materials 3:  student human-plant comparison handout




Procedure 1:  S tudents should complete the entry slip with the question: 

To classify means to a) organize b) study c) count d) destroy


Procedure 2:  Show the video at
.  Students should take a few notes as they watch.  At the end, they should have at least 5 pieces of information on their paper.


Procedure 3: Based on the video they saw, ask what are the general parts of a plant that we can use to identify them?  Make a drawing that shows the general parts.  What do you think each part does? Using the website www.biology4kids.com/files/plants_main.html and http://emc.maricopa.edu/faculty/farabee/BIOBK/BioBookPLANTANAT.html.


Procedure 4:  Students should provide the information that goes in the class notes.  The notes should be placed in the human-plant comparison handout section below.


Structure What gives human structure and support? What gives a plant structure and support in the open world?


Procedure 5: Have students update their KWL charts.  Collect for next lesson.



  1. Complete journal entry #3
  2. For tomorrow, think about what makes humans so complex.  Is it our size, how we live, the makeup of our bodies?  Explain



The responses on the KWL chart should indicate whether students understood the structure of a plant.

Lesson 4

Title Plants Eat and Excrete, too


Project Objectives

Objective 1:  understand and use new vocabulary:  photosynthesis

Objective 2: review human nutrition and excretion

Objective 3:  take notes on information covered in a video



Materials 1:  projector with computer and internet connection

Materials 2: student human-plant comparison handout




Procedure 1:  What do plants "eat"?  What do they excrete? Allow students to share their thoughts on what plants eat and excrete.  Allow students 5 minutes to respond to the questions.


Procedure 2: Explain that plants do not actually ingest food like we do so they do not eat.  However, they take in certain things they need just like we do.  What they take in allows them to feed themselves.  What do they think allows plants to feed themselves? Every organism that consumes produces waste.  What waste do plants produce?


Procedure 3: Students will watch video at http://videos.howstuffworks.com/hsw/11886-plants-photosynthesis-video.htm.  Now, ask the questions agains and see the answers. 


Procedure 4:  Have students fill in the information in the human-plants comparison handout section below.

Nutrition How do humans get food? What do plants actually do to get food?
Excretion What wastes do humans produce? What wastes do plants have and how do they get rid of it?


Procedure 5: So how is our survival linked to the nutrition and excretion of plants?



  1. Complete journal #4
  2. The following is an equation that shows the Carbon-Oxygen cycle.  Fill in the missing information. 


____________ + H2O  make Food and __________



Homework will be used to determine student understanding of the process of photosynthesis.

Janice is proud to teach in NYC public schools. For the past 9 years, her passion for science education and her commitment to her community have led her to pursue MA's in Curriculum and Instruction and Science Education. Both degrees allow her to plan and implement innovative instruction that exposes her students to natural phenomena through inquiry-based learning and greater scientific literacy. Ultimately, she hopes to inspire her students to be conscious and active members of their urban communities paying attention to issues such as overcrowding, revitalizing and increasing green spaces, reducing pollution and maintaining healthy lifestyles.

Plant Watch Unit.ppt




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