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Monday, May 21

Trellis & the Seed : A Picnic Parade Fun Day!

Spring is here, and we're focusing heavily on gardening.  I think that, if you want the kids to understand plant growth, they should first understand basic plant anatomy.  So we're taking a picnic...enjoying some plant-based foods and a plant unit study!  But first - our read-aloud for the picnic...

We're reading Jan Karon's The Trellis and the Seed.  (It has a free lapbook to accompany it, if you're interested.)  In this gently told parable, Jan Karon tells a story of patience, of the special rewards that come from being a little bit different from everyone else, and of the courage to believe in oneself.   In a picturesque and secluded garden, a tiny seed sits in thrilled anticipation of its destiny as a powerful vine, twisting and flowering through the white latticework trellis. But how could such a small seed ever thrive and grow into a strong, healthy, grown-up plant? "Don't worry," Mother Earth says. "God has planned something beautiful for you." But time passes, and the little seed doesn't believe it.  Beautifully illustrated and filled with faith and love, The Trellis and the Seed is Jan Karon at her very best-an inspiration for all ages and an important lesson on God's love for all creatures great and small.
In the spirit of playing with our food, we're having Ants on a Log and Grape Caterpillars.  These are both super easy foods that your preschooler will be able to help make!  Ants on a Log are made by cutting a celery stick in half and smearing peanut butter on the insides - then line up some raisins like ants walking along it.  For Grape Caterpillars, put a skewer through ten to twelve grapes.  (Googly eyes optional.)

We began by examining the flower, intact.  The kids drew pictures of the tulip, and labeled the important parts.  Then we dug a little deeper, and learned the plant classifications : monocotyledon and dicotyledon, commonly referred to as monocots and dicots.
Then we pulled out the scalpel and cutting board, and went to work!  We worked our way from the top down, examining the petals and plant reproductive system first.  There are great (free) resources to help you with this part at the bottom of this post.  If you look closely, you can see the teeny ovules.
We carefully pulled apart the leaves and checked out how the plant gets its nutrients by capillary action.  There is a fantastic Young Scientists' kit that demonstrates capillary action through multiple experiments.  For a quick & easy show, though, you can stick a celery stalk into a glass with blue or red food coloring - leave it overnight and watch the magic as the stalk turns colors!

Finally, we got down to the bulb - the seed of this tulip plant. The boys enjoyed peeling layer after layer off the bulb until they reached the stalk and fibrous roots.
Here are a couple of anatomical diagramming pages to get you started....

Resources :

If you don't already own the Magic School Bus DVD set, I highly recommend it.  Ninety percent of the time, I can find an introductory-level video that engages the kids in whatever science topic we will be discussing.  They retain a lot of information, without even realizing it, and all because Miss Frizzle makes it so fun!  This 8-dvd set has twenty-six hours of episodes!!


  • 4 pots
  • 1 jar with a lid
  • 5 healthy plants  (same size & kind)
  • potting soil
  • water
  • labels
  • paper & crayons
  • Put one plant in a jar, with soil, and put the lid on it.  Label it "No Air."
  • Put a plant into a pot with no soil.  Label it "No Soil."
  • Put a plant into a pot with soil and label it "No Sun."  (Keep it in the dark)
  • Put a plant into a pot with soil and label it "No Water."  (Give it sun, but no water)
  • Put a plant into a pot and label it "Soil, Sun, Water, and Air."  (Give it all four)
  • Keep track of your plants' growth for 7-10 days.  Note any changes.
  • What did you learn about plant needs?
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