Root View Cups
Use a clear plastic cup 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 small, clear plastic cup for each child (plus an extra for making a sleeve template), scissors, dark paper, soil, and seeds. First, cut out a paper sleeve for each root view cup. The sleeve will be used to block the light. To make a template for the sleeves, cut straight down one side of a cup, then cut off the bottom and the top rim. You should end up with an arch shape that you can lay flat and trace onto construction paper. Elongate one end of the arch to create a sleeve that will overlap at the seam. 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, 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! 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.