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May 11, 2016 Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments By Genia Connell
Grades 1–2, 3–5

    My love of science began decades ago as a student in Mrs. Stein's sparsely decorated third-grade classroom. While I don't remember a single test or purpley ditto (remember those purple copies that used to roll off the ditto machine?) we did that year, the times our class spent gathered around her square, wooden science table every Friday mesmerized by science demonstrations are etched in my memory to this day. There was that cloud she made in a mayonnaise jar with just a match, the swirling tornado in a soda bottle (complete with debris!), and that time she put a raw egg inside a narrow-mouthed vase without it even cracking. She seemed to be more magician than teacher and I couldn't get enough. 

    Perhaps my favorite science activity of all was the day she put three white carnations in different cups of colored water. Watching the flowers change to shades of pink, blue and green was flat-out amazing to 8-year-old me. I think of that experiment to this day, whenever I see colored carnations for sale at the market. With that long-ago flower experiment in mind, I set out to create a learning experience for my own third-graders that would help them learn about plant structure, photosynthesis, and transpiration in a meaningful and memorable way. 

    Teaching and learning has evolved since my school days with perhaps the biggest difference in how students take charge of their learning. While I grew up in an era of hands-off learning, watching the teacher do everything, my students today demonstrate learning in a hands-on fashion.

    This week I'm happy to share how my students took charge and excitedly designed their very own experiments as they attempted to answer a question or wondering they had about water absorption.

     

    Part One: Begin With a Group Experiment

    The week before our scheduled field trip to a nearby nature center for maple syruping, when I was trying to think of a way to help my students discover how water defies gravity when it travels up the trunk to feed the buds, Mrs. Stein's carnation experiment came to mind. Instead of carnations, however, I thought I could use stalks of celery to represent the tree trunks. So to help build background and activate thinking, my class replicated Mrs. Stein's carnation demonstration using celery instead. I knew the celery leaves would act like the petals of the carnation and I could hardly wait to see my students' reaction. In another departure from my own third-grade days, my students worked in their collaborative learning teams to conduct the entire weeklong experiment themselves. Below are the steps we followed.

    Gather the Materials

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Materials:

    celery, washed with bottoms trimmed
    food coloring
    water
    clear containers

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Pass Out Experiment Sheets With Directions

    The sheet below is what my students worked from as they conducted the experiment. 

    Kids Set Up the Experiment

    Each learning team was responsible for using a different color. They followed the direction on the sheet to fill their containers with a cup of water and 20 drops of food dye.

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Collect Data

    Predictions were made and data was collected daily through written observations on data sheets. Students used their iPad cameras to capture pictures in order to compare the hour-to-hour differences on the very first day. 

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own ExperimentsCelery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

     

    Students wrote on their mini think pad posters (construction paper with a question mark in the middle) before the experiment began and each subsequent day to note changes, address questions, share thoughts, and formulate conclusions. 

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own ExperimentsCelery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own ExperimentsCelery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Summarize and Draw Conclusions

    After five days, students wrapped up the experiment drawing some conclusion about what happened. They had discovered that the dye traveled through xylem, tubes in the stalk feeding the leaves with the water. As the water evaporated, food coloring was left in the leaves. The control cup of celery in plain water helped students realized that while water moved up the xylem and into the leaves, it wasn't as obvious because the water was clear.

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    As we drew conclusions following the experiment, students began to ask questions they had about the outcomes. It was these questions that led to part two, the students designing their own experiments.  

    As it turned out, I discovered that students were completely surprised by the fact that the leaves changed color to match the color of the dye. Based on their reactions from the very first day, they never saw it coming! 

     

    Part Two: Design Your Own Experiment

    At the conclusion of the group experiment, students began to raise questions about the food coloring and other variables. They wondered why the celery with food coloring withered up while the celery in plain water stayed fresh and healthy looking. Some talked about the food coloring in the foods they eat, wondering if that was unhealthy too. Celery in the red and yellow dyes particularly did not fair well. 

    Following our class discussion, students were asked to share any questions they still had. These questions were all recorded on a piece of chart paper shown below.

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

     

    After brainstorming a list of things they were wondering about from the previous experiment, the discussion moved toward what types of tests could be performed to find the answers. We decided that for this experiment each student or team would only change one of the variables: the liquid, container, location, or the celery. I was truly proud of my students when they realized on their own that if they changed two variables at a time, it could be tough to figure out which one caused the end result.

     Some of the questions they decided to test included:

    • What would happen if you doubled the amount of dye?

    • What if you put the celery stalk in upside down?

    • What if you added salt to the water?

    • What would happen if you put tape over the bottom of the celery?

    • What would happen if you switched the celery from one color to another?

    • What would happen if you split one stalk of celery between two different colors?

    I handed students a second science experiment sheet (shown below) on which they wrote the question they most wanted answered. Once students wrote their question, they found partners in the classroom who had the same or similar question and these students formed a science partnership.  

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

     

    Begin With the End in Mind

    Before beginning, my third graders had to plan all aspects of their experiment, creating a numbered list of steps to follow. I told my students their steps should be written clearly enough so that another scientist could easily recreate their experiment. 

    In an independent experiment, I find this step is crucial in helping students think through the process from beginning to end. When I didn't include this step, many students seemed to “get lost” in the middle of their own experiment, making decisions that strayed from their original hypothesis.

    Gather Materials 

    After completing the first two sections of the Design Your Own Experiment sheet, students each gave me a list of the materials they would need. I used these as my shopping list. Fortunately the list was simple, I needed 12 celery stalks, root beer, grape soda, salt, food coloring and a few more clear containers.

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Let the Experiments Begin

    After I had purchased the necessary materials and approved all of the step-by-step plans, students were ready to get started. Because they had already done the initial group experiment, very little assistance was required as they prepared their containers and celery. 

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own ExperimentsCelery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Observation Time

    Once the experiments were all set up, each student created a Keynote presentation that they could use to record their observations each day. To help students set up their Keynotes, I gave them each an organizer to follow (below). In years when my students did not have their own devises they would document everything in their science notebooks or in PowerPoint. 

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Each day students took pictures and made observations which were recorded in their Keynotes. They also added onto the day-by-day comparison page and their photo galleries. I loved watching and listening to my students collaborate during observation/creation time. It's become second nature for my kids to ask classmates to “airdrop” them a picture or ask for a second opinion on their observation. 

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own ExperimentsCelery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Ending the Experiment 

    After five days, students ended the experiment by writing a summary of their findings and drawing conclusions. My third graders did need guidance in understanding the difference between summaries and conclusions and how to write them, whereas older students may not need as much support. 

    Check out the Keynote presentations two of my students made below. I may be biased, but I think they are pretty amazing for third graders!

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

     

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Students loved sharing their presentations with classmates and began asking even more questions, the most common one being, When can we make our own experiment again? My students' eagerness for experiment time each day and the incredible presentations they created to document their work made me feel like my class and I would definitely have made Mrs. Stein proud. 

    Note: My third grade students took nearly all of the photos in this post. Whenever they thought they had taken a great shot, they would email or airdrop it to me while beaming with pride! 

    For more science activities in your classroom, check out these resources from the Teacher Store:

     

     

     

     

     

     

    My love of science began decades ago as a student in Mrs. Stein's sparsely decorated third-grade classroom. While I don't remember a single test or purpley ditto (remember those purple copies that used to roll off the ditto machine?) we did that year, the times our class spent gathered around her square, wooden science table every Friday mesmerized by science demonstrations are etched in my memory to this day. There was that cloud she made in a mayonnaise jar with just a match, the swirling tornado in a soda bottle (complete with debris!), and that time she put a raw egg inside a narrow-mouthed vase without it even cracking. She seemed to be more magician than teacher and I couldn't get enough. 

    Perhaps my favorite science activity of all was the day she put three white carnations in different cups of colored water. Watching the flowers change to shades of pink, blue and green was flat-out amazing to 8-year-old me. I think of that experiment to this day, whenever I see colored carnations for sale at the market. With that long-ago flower experiment in mind, I set out to create a learning experience for my own third-graders that would help them learn about plant structure, photosynthesis, and transpiration in a meaningful and memorable way. 

    Teaching and learning has evolved since my school days with perhaps the biggest difference in how students take charge of their learning. While I grew up in an era of hands-off learning, watching the teacher do everything, my students today demonstrate learning in a hands-on fashion.

    This week I'm happy to share how my students took charge and excitedly designed their very own experiments as they attempted to answer a question or wondering they had about water absorption.

     

    Part One: Begin With a Group Experiment

    The week before our scheduled field trip to a nearby nature center for maple syruping, when I was trying to think of a way to help my students discover how water defies gravity when it travels up the trunk to feed the buds, Mrs. Stein's carnation experiment came to mind. Instead of carnations, however, I thought I could use stalks of celery to represent the tree trunks. So to help build background and activate thinking, my class replicated Mrs. Stein's carnation demonstration using celery instead. I knew the celery leaves would act like the petals of the carnation and I could hardly wait to see my students' reaction. In another departure from my own third-grade days, my students worked in their collaborative learning teams to conduct the entire weeklong experiment themselves. Below are the steps we followed.

    Gather the Materials

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Materials:

    celery, washed with bottoms trimmed
    food coloring
    water
    clear containers

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Pass Out Experiment Sheets With Directions

    The sheet below is what my students worked from as they conducted the experiment. 

    Kids Set Up the Experiment

    Each learning team was responsible for using a different color. They followed the direction on the sheet to fill their containers with a cup of water and 20 drops of food dye.

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Collect Data

    Predictions were made and data was collected daily through written observations on data sheets. Students used their iPad cameras to capture pictures in order to compare the hour-to-hour differences on the very first day. 

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own ExperimentsCelery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

     

    Students wrote on their mini think pad posters (construction paper with a question mark in the middle) before the experiment began and each subsequent day to note changes, address questions, share thoughts, and formulate conclusions. 

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own ExperimentsCelery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own ExperimentsCelery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Summarize and Draw Conclusions

    After five days, students wrapped up the experiment drawing some conclusion about what happened. They had discovered that the dye traveled through xylem, tubes in the stalk feeding the leaves with the water. As the water evaporated, food coloring was left in the leaves. The control cup of celery in plain water helped students realized that while water moved up the xylem and into the leaves, it wasn't as obvious because the water was clear.

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    As we drew conclusions following the experiment, students began to ask questions they had about the outcomes. It was these questions that led to part two, the students designing their own experiments.  

    As it turned out, I discovered that students were completely surprised by the fact that the leaves changed color to match the color of the dye. Based on their reactions from the very first day, they never saw it coming! 

     

    Part Two: Design Your Own Experiment

    At the conclusion of the group experiment, students began to raise questions about the food coloring and other variables. They wondered why the celery with food coloring withered up while the celery in plain water stayed fresh and healthy looking. Some talked about the food coloring in the foods they eat, wondering if that was unhealthy too. Celery in the red and yellow dyes particularly did not fair well. 

    Following our class discussion, students were asked to share any questions they still had. These questions were all recorded on a piece of chart paper shown below.

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

     

    After brainstorming a list of things they were wondering about from the previous experiment, the discussion moved toward what types of tests could be performed to find the answers. We decided that for this experiment each student or team would only change one of the variables: the liquid, container, location, or the celery. I was truly proud of my students when they realized on their own that if they changed two variables at a time, it could be tough to figure out which one caused the end result.

     Some of the questions they decided to test included:

    • What would happen if you doubled the amount of dye?

    • What if you put the celery stalk in upside down?

    • What if you added salt to the water?

    • What would happen if you put tape over the bottom of the celery?

    • What would happen if you switched the celery from one color to another?

    • What would happen if you split one stalk of celery between two different colors?

    I handed students a second science experiment sheet (shown below) on which they wrote the question they most wanted answered. Once students wrote their question, they found partners in the classroom who had the same or similar question and these students formed a science partnership.  

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

     

    Begin With the End in Mind

    Before beginning, my third graders had to plan all aspects of their experiment, creating a numbered list of steps to follow. I told my students their steps should be written clearly enough so that another scientist could easily recreate their experiment. 

    In an independent experiment, I find this step is crucial in helping students think through the process from beginning to end. When I didn't include this step, many students seemed to “get lost” in the middle of their own experiment, making decisions that strayed from their original hypothesis.

    Gather Materials 

    After completing the first two sections of the Design Your Own Experiment sheet, students each gave me a list of the materials they would need. I used these as my shopping list. Fortunately the list was simple, I needed 12 celery stalks, root beer, grape soda, salt, food coloring and a few more clear containers.

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Let the Experiments Begin

    After I had purchased the necessary materials and approved all of the step-by-step plans, students were ready to get started. Because they had already done the initial group experiment, very little assistance was required as they prepared their containers and celery. 

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own ExperimentsCelery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Observation Time

    Once the experiments were all set up, each student created a Keynote presentation that they could use to record their observations each day. To help students set up their Keynotes, I gave them each an organizer to follow (below). In years when my students did not have their own devises they would document everything in their science notebooks or in PowerPoint. 

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Each day students took pictures and made observations which were recorded in their Keynotes. They also added onto the day-by-day comparison page and their photo galleries. I loved watching and listening to my students collaborate during observation/creation time. It's become second nature for my kids to ask classmates to “airdrop” them a picture or ask for a second opinion on their observation. 

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own ExperimentsCelery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Ending the Experiment 

    After five days, students ended the experiment by writing a summary of their findings and drawing conclusions. My third graders did need guidance in understanding the difference between summaries and conclusions and how to write them, whereas older students may not need as much support. 

    Check out the Keynote presentations two of my students made below. I may be biased, but I think they are pretty amazing for third graders!

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

     

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Celery Science: Kids Design Their Own Experiments

    Students loved sharing their presentations with classmates and began asking even more questions, the most common one being, When can we make our own experiment again? My students' eagerness for experiment time each day and the incredible presentations they created to document their work made me feel like my class and I would definitely have made Mrs. Stein proud. 

    Note: My third grade students took nearly all of the photos in this post. Whenever they thought they had taken a great shot, they would email or airdrop it to me while beaming with pride! 

    For more science activities in your classroom, check out these resources from the Teacher Store:

     

     

     

     

     

     

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