Getting to the Root of It: Plant Dissection and Root Systems
Through direct observation and diagramming, students learn about plant roots, stems, leaves, and flowers.
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
- Unit Plan:
Using a real plant, students will explore the parts: roots, stems, leaves and flowers. They will learn about the functions of these parts. Students will make a diagram of the plant and label the parts.
- Recognize that roots, stems, leaves and flowers are parts of plants.
- Observe and record the different parts of a plant.
- Understand how the parts work together to help the plant.
- Magnifying glasses for each student
- A flowering plant (from a flower pack) for each pair of students
- Water tray for each pair of students
- Paper plate for each pair of students
- Two potted plants: one with a cutting (stem and flower without the roots) stuck in the soil and one with roots
- Chart paper
- Drawing paper for each student
- Pencils or pens
Set Up and Prepare
- Lay out newsprint on the tables.
- Fill water trays for partners.
- Set out magnifying glasses.
- Set out plants from plastic container, but leave soil around roots.
- Establish science partners.
Step 1: Gather the students in a circle and tell them that today we are going to look at the four parts of a plant. Show the students two potted plants: one with a cutting (stem and flower without the roots) stuck in the soil and one with roots. Ask the students to gently push on the plants as they are passed around and observe what happens (plant with the cutting in soil falls over). Ask why one plant falls over and not the other. Tell them that one of the four parts of a plant they will be looking at today is called a root. The roots hold the plant in place and bring water and food (or minerals) from the soil to the plant.
Step 2: Tell the students that they are going to get a chance to look at the roots of a plant with a science partner. One partner will hold the plant while the other washes the dirt away. Each partner must be gentle so that the plant does not break. When the plant is cleaned, lay it on the plate and examine the roots with the magnifying glasses.
Step 3: You may choose to do this part outside because of the mess. Distribute materials. Send the science partners to their seats to wash the roots and observe their plant.
Step 1: Ask the science partners to gather on the carpet in a circle with their plant and magnifying glasses so they can look at their plant while you discuss the parts. While they are gathering, collect the water and newsprint. Ask what they noticed about the roots. How did they compare to the roots of the seeds they had grown in the cup in Lesson One? Ask one of the students to draw the plant that they observed on chart paper. Make sure the student includes the roots, stem, leaves and flower.
Step 2: Ask students to point to the roots of their plant. Label the roots on the chart. Ask students if they know the other parts of the plant. Some students may know the names, while some will not. Label the other parts: stem, leaves, flower. While you label, ask the students to point to that part on their own plant. Explain the function of the parts. Stems carry water and food from the roots to the leaves. They also hold the leaves up to get the energy from the sun. Leaves are the food factory for the plant. They take the water and minerals from the soil and combine it with the sunlight energy and carbon dioxide from the air to make food for the plant. Explain how animals breathe out carbon dioxide to give to the plants, while the plants give off oxygen for us to breathe in. Lastly explain that although the flowers are beautiful to look at, the real purpose is to make fruit and seeds.
Step 3: Tell the students that now they will have an opportunity to draw a diagram of their plant and label the parts. Send the science partners back to their tables to complete their diagram and label the parts. Encourage students to color their pictures.
Step 4: Gather the science partners together to share their diagrams.
Step 5: Replant the flowers in a large pot or flowerbox to enjoy outside. When the flowers die, dry them and save the seeds so the children can see from where they come.
Supporting All Learners
Where appropriate, help students to label their pictures with beginning sound letters or words. Those that are able can write words or sentences. Take dictation for those students that need it.
Show students how stems bring up water and food to the plant. Put celery and white carnations in jars with food coloring and watch over a week’s time. After a week, the white carnations will be the color of the food coloring. Mark the water level so you can show the students that the water has been sucked up through the stem like a straw. Split open the celery stalk and show the student the tubes that bring up the water.
With parental permission, ask students to bring in flowers and leaves from around their home and community. Make a display in class and try to identify the kinds of leaves and flowers.
- Diagram of a plant with labeled parts
- Did the student make an accurate drawing of the plant?
- Did the student label the parts?
- What kind of emergent writing is apparent?
- Was there enough time for students to be successful?
- What would I do differently?
Observe how students work with their science partner and how they label their diagram.