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Teaching Science While Smelling the Flowers

Teaching Science While Smelling the Flowers

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Updated on Jan 26, 2010

Don't save flowers for a special occasion. Use them to teach your kid about elementary science. With just a few ordinary household items, you can make a creative bouquet together – and have a great time learning about plant biology in the process!

You will need:

  • 8 fresh white carnation stems
  • 2 clear glass containers, holding at least 6 ounces of water each
  • Dark colored food dye (blue, green, or red works best)
  • A magnifying glass
  • Ribbon and tissue paper for wrapping

What to do:

  1. Fill your clear glass containers with approximately 6 ounces of water each, and lay the carnations on a table, ready to use. Invite your child to guess: How can plants “drink” water? Say something along the lines of “If I asked you to drink this, you’d put it up to your mouth, right? What if you tried to drink through your feet? Could a plant do this?” Ask them to guess. And if your child likes big words, go ahead and call this a “hypothesis.” (Just for the record, plants soak up water from their roots and through their stems, but don’t give it away! Let your child put forth a theory.)  
  2. Add at least 12-14 drops of food coloring to one of the glasses to make a strongly colored solution. Leave the other glass of water plain. In science speak, this begins your “experiment” – the plain water will be your “control.”  
  3. Clip your fresh carnations so that each flower tops a stem no longer than 8 inches in length. Place three stems into the plain water, and five into the colored water. Ask your child if they see anything happening. (Probably not.) Ask them if they think time will make a difference.  
  4. Budding scientists can check the flowers every few hours and write down times and observations.  
  5. Within 12-18 hours, the flowers placed in the colored solutions will be fringed with color, and you can use the magnifying glass to see the “veins” on flower petals. What happened? For primary grade children: the plant “drank” through its stem, absorbing nutrients and sending them to the flower. For older grades: this is an example of “capillary action,” water molecules, rearranging themselves, traveled up the stem the same way water soaks into a paper towel or napkin.

Lesson over! Remove your flowers from the water, add greens and other flowers as desired, and wrap the bunch in ribbon and tissue. Voila! You have a lovely present for mom or grandma. And you even managed to sneak a little science in along the way.

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