Thirty years ago, several amazing, veteran, early childhood educators mentored me--a new teacher. I was ecstatic as they shared their tried and true lessons. One I remember vividly is growing a beans in baggies. Little learners ran to the window every day to see if their beans had sprouted. When they did, there was celebration.
Since that time, I have recreated this activity with all of my children, each time teaching to their unique interests, their unique bent. One time I placed all the materials on the table and allowed the child to figure out the experiment. Another time I quickly drew picture instructions on scrap paper. Yet another time we read a non-fiction book about planting seeds. Each time we've done it a bit different. No matter the learning style or the prefered modality of input, every learner has loved observing his or her first sprouts in a bag. It's wonder! It's discovery! It's learning!
Every. Moment. Matters.
These are the results of our most recent bean-in-a-bag experiment.
Gather sandwich-sized zipper baggies, one per child. Write the child's name on the baggie with a permanent marker.
Look for lima beans in the pantry. Purchase limas if necessary.
Fold the paper towel in quarters and place in the baggie. Place five beans inside the baggie and on the paper towel. Using a spray bottle, add ten squirts. Zip the baggie.
Tape to a sunny window.
Carefully observe the bean several times a day. Baby sprouts are fragile. Ask questions.
- What is happening?
- How are the beans changing?
- Do all the beans look the same? What is different?
- What do you think the beans will look like tomorrow?
- What will happen to the sprout?
Fostering the Excitement
Where there's interest, learning follows.
Enthusiasm breeds learning. Enthusiasm increases retention. If excitement has been building as a result of anticipating what might happen to the beans or if the beans have sprouted and shouts of joy rise to the roof tops, consider next steps to further learning.
- Drawing observations in a blank book.
- Measuring--very carefully--the sprout with a ruler or tape measure (a personal favorite).
- Planting other seeds in starter trays, window boxes, or backyard gardens
- Learning the parts of a bean
- Researching what plants need to grow
- Reading a few good books
What happens when experiments don't go as anticipated?
Happens all the time. Failed experiments are a part of science. When things go awry, new opportunities present themselves. There are new problems, new questions, and potential solutions. These moments are equally important to our children as they learn collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving skills.
Seize these learning moments. They matter.
So, on Day 3--as soon as we woke--we checked our beans. MOLD! Ugh! I was disappointed. My learners were discouraged. What would we do?
Brainstorm. Find an solution.
We asked questions. Researched. Visited the local garden shop.
The solution? Peat pods.
We started over with new materials. The results were amazing. And, our discovery was so exciting we knew we needed to share the learning fun.