Plants – Teens
Did you know more than 20 per cent of the world’s plant species are found in the Amazon rainforest!? As many as 250 different plant species can be found in just one hectare (about 2.5 acres)! How many different plant species are in your neighbourhood?
Activity 1 - Plants in Your Area
Research which wild plant species live in your area. Take a walk to a nearby park or green space. Try and find 10 different plant species and gather a leaf from each. Make notes about the plant. Use as many descriptive words as you can noting:
- What is the size of the plant and the colour?
- What is the shape of each leaf?
- Does the plant stand tall, or grow low to the ground?
- Are there any berries? Flowers? Thorns?
- Does it have a scent?
When you get home, refer to your pictures, notes, and leaf samples and identify the plants that you found. Make a poster showing the 10 plant leaves, a photo or drawing of the plant it came from, the name of this plant and an interesting fact about it.
Activity 2 - Transpiration Experiment
Do plants sweat? Not quite! However, they do lose water. Similar to the sweat glands on our skin, plants have openings in their leaves that allow water to evaporate. This continuous process of taking in water through roots and losing water through leaves is called transpiration.
The openings are called stomata — microscopic pores that are usually on the underside of a leaf. They’re surrounded by guard cells that open and close to allow water to exit. In addition to releasing water, the stomata also allow the plant to exchange gases, releasing oxygen and bringing in carbon dioxide.
The behaviour of stomata is different for plants in the desert versus plants in the rainforest. A plant in the desert would have its stomata open as little as possible while the stomata of a plant in the rainforest would be open more. Why would this be?
In this activity we will see the part of transpiration where water moves up through the plant. You’ll need:
3 celery stalks with leaves attached
3 different food colouring (darker colours work better)
- Take three stalks of celery and cut the bottom off of each stock.
- Have 3 tall glasses filled with water. Add a colour to each glass.
- Put the cut end of each celery stalk into a cup of coloured water. (Put it where the celery can lean against something so it doesn’t topple over!)
- While you’re waiting for the magic to happen, research and write down the answer to this question: How does water move up the plants against the force of gravity?
- Now you are ready to check on your experiment. The leaves of each celery stalk should have changed colours!
- Take out the celery stalk and cut it half way up and look inside the stem. Can you see the path of the coloured water?
Activity 3 - Do Seeds Need Light to Germinate?
The process by which an organism grows from a seed into a plant is called germination.
You will need: two glass jars, two lima, kidney, navy or pinto beans, two small cloth napkins, spray bottle.
STEP 1 – Swirl some water around in your jars, then tip it out. Don’t dry your jars as your bean seed needs a little water to grow.
STEP 2 – Roll up a slightly damp cloth napkin and put it inside each jar. Place one bean seed in each jar resting against the napkin.
STEP 3– Put one jar in a dark closet and the other one on a window sill. Every day spray a little water on each of your bean seeds.
STEP 4 – After a few days your bean should start to sprout. Start a chart comparing the bean seed growing in the dark and the one in the light for 10 days. You should notice that they both grow! That is because light is not necessary for germination! But your bean plant in the dark will be less green. Why is this?
Activity 4 - Grow Your Own Healthy Sprouts
Sprouts have tremendous health benefits, can be grown easily in any climate and don’t need soil or sun! There are many types of seeds you can chose from (alfalfa, radish, lentils, peas, broccoli, sunflower, for instance). Just ensure that the seeds you choose are specifically for sprouting. You want chemical-free seeds that have been cleaned and are pathogen-free. All you need is your sprouting seeds, a clean glass jar like a mason jar, a small piece of cheese cloth and a rubber band!
STEP 1 — Soak your seeds
- Put two tablespoons of seeds in your clean mason jar and cover with three times the amount of cool water.
- Stir to make sure all the seeds are wet.
- Cover the jar with the cheesecloth secured with a rubber band.
- Let soak overnight.
STEP 2 — Drain and rinse your seeds
- Drain by pouring through the cheesecloth.
- Then add more fresh, cool water to the jar, swirl it around a little bit, and rinse out that water. Make sure to really shake out as much water as you can.
- Then prop the jar in a bowl so it’s tilted and can continue to drain.
- You’ll need to rinse your seeds twice per day.
- You should start to see little sprouts within a day. Keep rinsing and draining until your sprouts are at least a half-inch long.
STEP 3 – Harvest time
- Give your sprouts one final rinse and drain.
- Lay your sprouts on a clean kitchen towel and let them air dry for an hour.
- Eat and enjoy! You can store your sprouts in the fridge for up to a week.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO BECOME AN EARTH PROTECTOR!
Plant a wildflower garden for the bees! Plant the garden in your back yard, at your school, or ask permission if you can plant a garden at a local park or green space. (If space is limited you can use a large tub or window box.) Make sure you plant wildflowers that are native to your area!
- Prepare the area in the spring and plant wildflower seeds that are best for the type of soil, your region and sun exposure.
- Don’t forget to water when the area looks dry and water until established.
- Watch your wildflowers grow and enjoy your creation!
- Can you estimate how many bees are visiting your wildflower garden?