Sunday, April 5, 2020

Montessori Botany - Seeds


Children simply adore the study of seeds.  Nothing speaks to energy and new growth quite like a seed and the potential life inside.  Sequoias Class has begun learning all about seeds even if it is long distance.  This post will take you through the sequence of seed presentations and works for the Early Childhood classroom.  Look forward to the second installment as our studies continue.

In the Montessori environment we always first introduce the real thing and then move to further abstraction of study.  In order to study seeds we will soak many large bean seeds in a bowl of water so we can explore them later.  It takes several hours, or even overnight for the beans to be ready.  When we are teaching in a classroom we don't want to soak too many or they will go to waste or start to really stink.  We try to soak only as many as we think will be used in a day.  Typically a child who takes this work from the shelf after a presentation will dissect 4-5 seeds on their own.

soaking beans in a sunny window

Once the outside (testa) of the seeds are supple and the seed is swollen they are ready to be dissected and explored.  The guide (teacher) will invite a student, or small group of children (no more than 3) to observe this presentation.

For this presentation you will need -A paper towel folded, tweezers, beans that have been soaking in a  small bowl until supple a tray to hold all the items, and a paper with parts of the beans glued as in the example photo:

Dissecting Seeds Presentation Tray

Dissecting Seeds Presentation
*Lay a vinyl mat or hand towel down on the table.
*Go to the shelf and retrieve the bowl of beans which have been soaking for several hours or overnight.
*Place the bowl of soaking beans at the top left corner of the table.
*Remove one seed and place on the mat.
*Say, "This is a seed.  This seed has been soaking in water for several hours.  I can see that this seed has gotten plump with water.  See how much bigger it is?"
*Point to the hilum of the seed and say, "This is the hilum of the seed.  It is where the bean was attached to the seed pod."
*Point to the micropyle of the seed and say, "This is the micropyle.  It is a small opening in the seed."

*Without speaking remove the testa (seed coat) very carefully from the bean.  Trying to keep it as intact as possible.
*Point to the testa and say, "This is the testa of the seed.  It is like a coat for the seed.  It helps to protect what is inside."
*Peel apart the two cotyledons of the bean seed being careful of the embryo inside.
*Point to the cotyledons and say, "These are called the cotyledons.  They will give the new plant the food it needs to grow."
* Point to the embryo still attached to the cotyledon and say, "This is the embryo of the seed.  It is the baby plant." (sometimes it is really helpful to have a red water soluble marker to mark the embryo with so the child can discern it from the rest of the plant)
*Carefully break off the radicle and say, "This is the radicle.  It will grow into the root of the plant."
* Carefully take off the epicotyl and say, "This is the epicotyl.  It will grow into the stems and leaves of the plant."
*For older and more advanced students who can write: Demonstrate creating a sheet with the parts of the seed glued and labeled.  It will take at least two seeds to create this work.
*Place the unused been seed parts into the compost.  Demonstrate how to clean up all of the pieces and return to the tray.  Then place the tray back on the shelf.
*Let the child(ren) know they may use this work whenever they choose now.  Ask if they would like to work with this work.


After the introduction to the actual seed and its parts the child can be introduced to the Parts of the Seed Puzzle.  I definitely have strong opinions about this work.  In many Early Childhood classrooms there is not a puzzle of the seed parts but it is ever so helpful and highly engaging for students.  There are many puzzle out there that seem like they would be more confusing than helpful to the student.  
I love this set of puzzles that details the entire growth process from seed to young plant.

Growing Process Parts of Puzzles
When a puzzle is not available there are other options such as this one made of felt.


After the child has had some experience working with the puzzle (or if they choose not to use the puzzle but have experienced dissecting the seed) they are ready for the Nomenclature Cards for the Parts of the Seed.

When presenting this work begin by laying out the control cards only (picture and word card) and do a naming lesson.  This again goes over the vocabulary first introduced in the Dissecting the Seed presentation.  Once all the parts have been named you may take the Movable Alphabet to build the words.  Young children really do love to build the words.  You can find a printable Movable Alphabet here.

Once this presentation has been given you may, at a different time, formally present the Three-Part Card Lesson.  This video is a great explanation into how to give a Three-Part Card Lesson.
Seed Nomenclature Cards Laid Out with Booklet
Early Childhood Parts of the Seed Nomenclature Cards
click on image for link to file


Booklets just might be THE absolute favorite paper work in the classrooms I have directed.  The children love to color them in and take them home.  Sometimes children want to skip the nomenclature card set and move straight into making the booklets.  I am careful to let them know they may do this work once they have worked with the nomenclature cards at least a few times.  After a while it becomes an understood boundary the children are happy to work with.
Early Childhood Parts of the Seed Booklet Blackline Master
click on image for link to file


Children love to watch a seed germinate outside of the soil so they can really understand what is going on.  In this little experiment the child has the opportunity to set up their own seed germinating factory.  Use dicot seed if possible, such as a bean or pea for this work. 

All you need is a tray with plastic baggies, paper towels pre-cut to half size, bean or pea seeds, and tape. Children should get help to write their names on the baggie with a permanent marker.

Germinating a Seed Tray
Demonstrate WITHOUT SPEAKING how to create this work and put it on the window including writing the name.  After the presentation is finished you may say, "When you need to have your name put on your baggie please come and find me or the tonekeeper."  Once the seed(s) are in the baggie the child can tape them up on a sunny window and watch their seed germinate over the next several days.


This work is especially helpful for more advanced students who can draw something that approximates reality.  That is often a second or third year student in the class.  There is no need to draw the picture every day, unless the child is self-directed in this.  Every few days is just fine.  The children are usually keen to keep track but often need a bit of a reminder of it as an option.

My Seed Growth Diary
Click on image for link to file

With Love,

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