This science project is suited for K-8 and involves growing marigolds.
By Laura S. McCormick
- To grow marigolds from seeds
- To increase students’ botany vocabulary
- To provide a student/parent handout, A Marigold Gardening Project Handout for Students and Parents, which teaches continued care of marigolds and how to harvest and store marigold seeds (download by clicking link)
- To increase ecological understanding and responsibilities
- To relate the process of growing healthy plants to the process of maintaining students’ health
- Marigold seeds (not labeled “hybrid” since hybrids will not produce viable seeds that have the characteristics of the mother plant), enough for at least two per student plus extras
- Containers with a slit along the bottom edge or a pencil-sized drainage hole, preferably a cleaned, recycled 6-ounce yogurt container, Styrofoam cup, or milk carton with the top cut off, one per student plus a few extras
- Enough sterile potting soil to fill each container, leaving a ¾-inch space at the top to allow for watering; the larger the container, the higher the soil cost
- Newspaper to protect the work area
- Popsicle sticks (recycled), one per container and pencils (pen and even permanent markers fade in the sun) to label each container with the plant variety, color, size, and student’s name
- Trays with a lip or pans (waterproof aluminum or plastic dishpans), enough to hold all the containers
- Spray bottles filled with water and set for fine mist
- Plastic wrap
- Sunlit, warm area large enough to place all the pans
- Plastic sandwich baggies to cover the bottom of the containers so water doesn’t leak while transporting home
Use the student/parent handout for project steps and guidelines; vocabulary words are in capital letters.
Use recycled materials to model ecological responsibility.
Note that dirt is what we sweep off our kitchen floors and throw away, while soil is what provides food for plants.
Sow seeds six to eight weeks before the last frost in your area (generally mid-March or mid-April); send the seedlings and handout home about six weeks later, when the seedlings will be due for transplanting. Marigolds bloom approximately 8 to10 weeks from sowing.
Younger children truly enjoy misting the seeds and young seedlings; however, you may want to set up an osmosis demonstration to self-water the seeds on days off from school. Simply place the containers in pans filled with water no higher than one-fifth the height of the container. When watering from the bottom using osmosis, do not cover the containers, as this will encourage mold growth, and also do not mist the seeds since excess water will drown the seeds. After returning to school, empty the excess water from the trays or pans.
To use warm-weather energy to your advantage, remember these tips:
Incorporate a large-motor activity in a structured way that makes it essential to the task, not something unrelated added in merely for the sake of movement. This gives students a natural outlet without distracting them from the material, and the physical motion actually engages the brain more effectively.
Maximize self-directed learning. You want your students to work harder than you do, and this is especially true in the spring semester.
Involve the five senses and build student creativity into each assignment. Weaving art and music into classwork is a great way to accomplish both goals and will capture the interest of certain personalities that aren’t engaged by more predictable academics.
Nurturing growth is a skill that requires work (following directions, deliberate observations, actions, evaluation, and adaption). Describe the work necessary to grow healthy plants.
Marigolds are a part of our world’s ecological system, which, when balanced, provides optimum conditions for growth. Describe the optimal conditions in which people flourish. Describe conditions that disturb nature’s balance.
Plants are healthy when their needs are met; people are healthy when their physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs are met. What work do you do to fulfill your needs? How do you help others fulfill their needs? What role do relationships (family, friends, our community, our country, and other countries) play to meet your needs? Does anything other than relationships fulfill human needs?
Tour a commercial greenhouse
Guided field trip to a nature center
Collect seed catalogs (see HarrisSeeds.com, ParkSeed.com, and StokeSeeds.com) and discuss the large amount of seed varieties. Discuss the advantages of hybrid seeds (such as inbred disease resistance) and disadvantages of hybrid seeds (such as making the gardener or farmer dependent on commercial seed suppliers).
Summer vacation homegrown tomato report: Grow different tomato varieties and compare each variety with respect to days from transplanting until harvest, flavor, shape, color, infestation (if any), disease resistance, and resistance to weather changes (such as cracking).
Junior high-level report due in September: Have students write a report on their summer vegetable gardening experience. Instruct them to include a labeled plot diagram and their rationale (for example, companion planting — deliberately planting plants together which mutually benefit one another); dates of sowing, transplanting, harvesting; evaluation of all varieties planted; any difficulties and actions taken to fight infestation, pests, disease, and weather problems (such as watering plants thoroughly before an expected cold night since wet roots suffer less cold damage); a proposed plot diagram for next year’s garden including their rationale (for example, rotating crops — deliberately locating crops to balance the soil nutrients naturally and minimize crop infestation by interrupting the food chain; i.e., when a tomato crop planted in soil infested with tomato worms is placed elsewhere and a different crop not susceptible to tomato-worm infestation is planted there next year, the tomato worm population will die because of lack of food). In September, compare reports and share garden tips.
Laura S. McCormick owns Writing-related Services and specializes in résumés. You can reach her at email@example.com.