Students will learn about spring by exploring plants. They will learn the different parts of a plant, a plant life cycle, the different ways they become pollinated, and some of the ways animals use different plants in the spring season.
- Plant parts magnet board
- Book The Acorn Story
- Pollination magnets and pollen
- Bee puppet
- Pollination game materials
- Fawn hide
- Mouse picture or puppet
- Half sheets of paper
- Lap boards
Introduction: Turn on your Senses
What season is it? How do we know it is spring? Plants are a big part of the changes we can see in the spring. Today we are going to explore what happens in a plant’s world when the seasons change and how they get ready for spring.
Are plants alive? How do we know? (they can grow, they can reproduce, and they can die) Before we can look at how plants grow we need to learn the different parts of a plant.
What are the different parts of a flower? Ask the kids to name different parts and have the students who come up with the parts place the name magnet on the board. After each part expand on why that part is important to the flower.
Roots- What do they do? (Water from the ground)
Stem- Why is this important? (Support the plant)
Leaves- Do all leaves look the same? (Make the food)
Flower- Does every plant have a flower? (Attract pollinator)
Seed- This is the baby
Sing “seed, flower, leaf, stem, roots” song
(To the tune of head, shoulders, knees, and toes)
Seed (hands in front of face)
Flower (hands out around face)
Leaf (hands out by side)
Stem (holding sides)
Roots (bend down towards toes)
Stem and roots
Flowers are important to you and to me
Seed, flower, leaf, stem, roots, stem and roots
But seeds can’t be made unless the flower of the plant is pollinated. What does pollinated mean? How do the plants move there pollen from one flower to another flower? (Insects and wind) Ask for two volunteers. Use flower and bee puppets to explore how flowers can transfer their pollen. Talk about the three different pollinators that will be a part of the game. (fly/dark red smelly flower, bee/bright flower, wind/white flower)
Anemone: wind: white, no smell, bandanna
Ginger: Fly: maroon, fragrant, bandanna
Blood Root: Bee: bright colored, no smell, bandanna
Split the kids up into two large groups. Explain that one group will be flowers and the other will be pollinators. Then break each of the two large groups into three smaller groups. Give the flowers their corresponding bandannas and pollen stickers and have them line up in a mixed fashion.
Next explain what everyone is. The flies will have to smell with their noses to find their flower. It attracts the fly by being smelly and is the color of meat. The bee will use its eyes to find the bright colored flowers. They will buzzzzz over to their flowers. The wind is looking for the white flower to blow off the pollen. When the pollinator finds the correct flower, the flower will then place some pollen on the pollinator. Before the wind can get its pollen it must twirl three times with their flower. Then each pollinator goes to another flower and again the flower will place some different colored pollen stickers on the pollinator. HOWEVER, this time the pollinator will remove some of the first colored pollen and place it on the flower. Now the flower has been pollinated. (if there is time) Do this twice so everyone gets a chance to be a flower.
So when the flower is pollinated what does it make? (A seed.) Now we are going to explore the life cycle of a seed.
Read The Acorn Story
Discuss the book. What did the seed need to grow? (water, light, soil, warm temperatures) Why do seeds sprout in the spring and not in the winter or fall?
Seed Life Cycle Activity
- Now everyone picture the seed in the story. Try to imagine what being a seed would be like. Let’s all become an acorn.
- We start our life as a seed (curl up in a tight ball)
- Sometimes we have to stay a seed for a long time waiting for the right time to sprout. What season do we need it to be? SPRING
- As the days get longer and warmer we slowly begin to grow. We are sprouting! Seeing the sun for the first time (uncurl & kneel)
- After a nice April shower you begin to grow faster. You’ve begun to grow branches (stick up one arm with fist clenched)
- Days go by. The sun is shining down on you. The soil is giving you lots of strength to keep growing (stick up other arm)
- Pretty soon your buds are ready to burst. It is time for your leaves to show themselves (wiggle your fingers) Now you are making sugar for food.
- You keep growing towards the sun (stand up tall)
- Now you are so big you need more water so your roots spread out wide looking for a drink (spread your feed apart and wiggle your toes)
- All of a sudden you feel itchy (start scratching all over) you are being attacked by insects and fungi. They are getting in under your bark!
- Later there is a horrible storm. The wind is blowing and the rain is falling hard. All of a sudden there is a bright flash and a loud CRACK! Lightening has hit one of your branches! (put down one arm)
- Now that you are older you can enjoy being a home for a squirrel (ahhhhh) or a resting place for a hawk (ahhhhh)
- Then one day you start vibrating. (wiggle really fast) A woodpecker has found some dead wood on you that is home to many tasty insects.
- Finally after many, many years of sitting watching the world change around you a large gust of wind blows you down. (Make a creaking sound and fall down)
- But the story is not over. From your rotting wood a new seed sprouts, seeing the sun for the first time. (Stick up one arm)
Now that we have learned about plants and how they grow. Let’s go for a hike to find different signs of spring.
Discussion: Review the rules for the hike
- Stay with your group leader.
- Please don’t pick up the plants (leaves and flowers). Explain that the naturalist may do some picking but that the students shouldn’t.
- The naturalist will lead the hike and will rotate groups so that each group gets to go first at least once.
- Don’t pull on the prairie grasses because they will cut your hands.
- Remind the children that they are visiting someone else’s home (all of the plants and animals that live in the park) so they need to treat it with respect.
- School rules apply.
Turn on your Senses
Hearing: Rabbit Ears
Have students cup their hands behind their ears and let them listen for 30 seconds. Have the students share what they heard.
Seeing: Eagle Eyes
Have students make little circles with their thumbs and first fingers and place this in front of their eyes like glasses. Let the students look with their ‘eagle eyes’ and describe the different colors that they see.
Smelling: Fox Noses
Have the students smell the air around them and have them describe how it smells to them.
Touch: Raccoon Paws
Have the students wiggle their fingers. Have them touch their hair, pants, sidewalk, and face. Explain to the students that they will be touching things that are soft, hard, damp, dry, etc.
Students will not be tasting the park today. The only tasting students will do will be eating snacks or picnic lunches.
Remind them to constantly be looking for different signs of spring. They are all around them! They might see one that the naturalist misses.
Look for trees or other plants that are in different stages of the plant life cycle. Stop and quiz the students if it is a seed, sprout, young, old, dead. Challenge them to keep their eagle eyes out for other plants in different stages. This can be drawn out to many stops in the forest.
Woodland flowers emerge before the trees leaf out so they can get the sun to grow. We are going to be looking for spring wild flowers throughout the hike.
If you are quiet you can hear the ringing. Why are they called blue bells? This is another flower that is pollinated by insects.
The bright colored flower attracts bees and other flying insects. Called a trout lily because the leaves look like the fish. This plant has to be 7 years old before it can produce a flower.
These flowers get there name because their flowers look like trousers hanging upside down from the stem. The female bumble bee is one of the only insects that has a long and strong enough tongue to get at the sweet nectar of this flower.
Demonstrate how blood root got its name. Break open a root and paint yourself. Discuss how its flower pollinates using trickery. The bright petals attract insects but there is no nectar for them.
Another sign of spring is all the baby animals. Explain that another way the animals use the fresh spring plants is for hiding. Show them the fawn fur. Explain how it is camouflaged. Also discuss what to do when or if you find a wildlife baby all alone. (Leave it alone!)
Explain what the ginger flower will look like (color and smell). Discuss what type of animal might help this flower pollinate (fly)
One of the first spring flowers. Its petals bear tiny reflectors to catch the eyes of the earliest insects. The faint pink lines on the petals help guide the insect down to the nectar.
The leeks have a very strong sent of onion. Many people use these as food to add to the salads. They grow all over the park. They are fun to find but you can’t take one.
These wildflowers use the wind to pollinate. They bob to and fro in the wind.
Before you leave the forest have each student pick up an acorn for a later activity
Have each student stop and use their senses to take in the prairie. Discuss how the prairie is different. Encourage them to try and find the new spring shoots growing up under the dead leaves of last year.
Many animals depend on the fresh spring shoots for food. Mice living in the prairie are one animal that will feast on this fresh spring meal.
Have the small groups split up and find a plant to sit or stand by. It is their turn to tell a story. Remind them about the acorn’s story. They are going to write the life story of the plan they have chosen. Have each student make up one sentence and have the adult write it down. Each student will take turns until the circle of life has made it back around (pollination-seed-growth-flower-pollination-seed death). This is a good activity to check for understanding. The papers can then be given to the teacher to keep.
Once back to the center have each small group plant an acorn in the ground over by the tree line, and have them say out loud what that seed will need to have a successful life!
Activity provided by:
Story County Conservation Board
Linda R. F. Zaletel
56461 180th St.
Ames, IA 50010
Story County Conservation