Root View Cups
Use a clear plastic container to view and explore how plants grow
Ages 5+ ~45min
Looking for a project kids can continue to track and monitor over the next 3-4 weeks? This project is a great way for kids to examine and observe how roots grow over time through a root view cup. You will need a clear plastic cup or other clear container for each child (your recycling bin is a great place to start looking for this), scissors, dark paper, soil, and seeds. First, cut out a paper sleeve for each root view cup, to block the light from the roots. The sleeve should be approximately the height of your container and long enough to wrap around the container and overlap at the ends. Punch or drill three holes in the bottom of each cup for drainage- any sharp tool works, but a drill is quick and easy. Demonstrate how to fill the cups to the top with soil and give the children time to fill them. Show how to plant seeds right against the inside of the cup, so you can see the seed through the side of the cup, and you can see the root when it starts to grow. Demonstrate how deep to plant the seed, using a ruler and information from the seed packet. You can also have children measure a part of their finger with the ruler and then use their finger to drill the seed down to that depth (i.e., poke the seed down to your second knuckle. That’s about 1 inch down.) Then demonstrate how to cover the seed with soil and water it gently until the soil is as moist as a wrung out sponge. Next, demonstrate how to wrap the paper sleeve around the cup and tape it to itself where it overlaps (not to the cup, so it can slide off the cup when you want to observe the roots) and give them time to do that.
The sleeve is like a curtain to keep the soil nice and dark for the seed, but you can remove the sleeve whenever you want to see how the roots are growing! This sleeve, above, is cut to fit the curve of the cup, but cutting a basic straight sleeve works fine too.
Keep the cups in a warm, sunny place and make your observations as your plant and roots start to grow. When doing this activity with older children, you can track observations in a data table, measure root length or plant height and make predictions about what you might see the next day.
Easy to do at home, no drill:
This version shows how to drill a hole, use a package of plastic drinking glasses, and create a template – good for a whole class: