As the weather turns cooler, and the days become shorter, it is hard to think about growing a vegetable garden! Both the soil and gardeners need the winter months to rest and replenish before the spring season. But winter and rest time can still excite students’ minds about the wonders of growing food!
Use classroom time to discover how vegetable plants grow, and how each part of the plant plays a role in producing vegetables. Kansas City Community Garden’s website has a number of lessons and activities that you and your students can do in the classroom, to check out more lessons and activities, visit our curriculum page.
One of the coolest activities is to explore how water travels through the stem of a plant. With a simple celery and food coloring experiment students can observe and understand the importance of plant stems.
- Celery Stalks (with leaves)
- Red Food Coloring
- Tall, clear jar
- Fill a jar halfway full of water
- Add 1 Tbsp. of red food coloring
- Trim about ½ inch off the bottom of the celery stalk.
- Place the stalk of celery in the jar with the bottom of the plant in the water and the leaves of the stalks up above the rim of the jar.
- Let it sit overnight.
- The next day, observe the color of the celery leaves.
- Cut the celery stalk in half to see the tubes that carry the water from the roots to the leaves. They will be outlined in red.
Below are observation questions and answers you can lead your students in.
- Q: What color were the celery leaves before they were placed in the jar?
- Q: What color were the celery leaves after they had been in the jar overnight?
- Q: Explain the process in which the color of the water colored the leaves.
A: The colored water moves up the stem and into the leaves. As the cells of the leaves absorb the water, they also absorb the red food coloring.
- Q: How does the water travel up the stem?
A: Water travels to the leaves by moving through tiny tubs called capillaries that are found in the stem. Water molecules are sticky and can cling to surfaces such as the inside of a capillary. Water molecules also stick to each other, so as one molecule climbs up the capillary it brings a bunch more with it. This climbing is called capillary action.