Seeds x Three

3.5 based on 6 ratings

Updated on Feb 19, 2014

Grade Level: 6th; Type: Environmental Science


The purpose of this experiment is to determine the best method of seed germination among the following three materials: soil, paper towel and cloth. Each method has three test cases for growth to gain a fuller and more accurate set of results.

Research Questions:

  • Is soil the best material to germinate a seed in?
  • How do paper towels or cotton cloth compare?
  • What might your conclusions suggest about seeds and the environments?

Germination is the emergence of plant growth from a seed. All fully developed seeds contain embryonic plants and food reserves inside a hardened exterior. In the right conditions—water, oxygen, moderate temperatures and the correct light—successful seed germination wakens the plant from dormancy.

The independent variables in this experiment are the material conditions—soil, paper towel and sock. The dependent variable is the seedling growth as measured by both observation and height (mm). The constants include the seeds, the light, the temperature and the water.


  • 3 small plastic pots or cups.
  • 1 small bag of potting soil.
  • 6 plates.
  • 3 sheets of paper towels.
  • 3 old, cotton socks. (Cloth diapers, tea towels or other cotton swatches can substitute.)
  • Distilled water.
  • Measuring cup.
  • Small knife.
  • Package of seeds.
  • Logbook.

Experimental Procedure

  1. Fill plastic cups with the same amount of soil.
  2. Knick three seeds with the knife and plant each one 1/4th inch deep in the soil of a cup. (Seeds planted too deep lack the energy to push through the soil above them.)
  3. Put a seed into each of the paper towels, fold and place on a plate.
  4. Drop a seed into each of the old socks (or fold into cloth) and place on a plate.
  5. Water the paper towels and socks until wet—not soaking—with the same amount of moisture. Do the same to the cups, but do not saturate the soil. (Seeds require oxygen to sprout, and too much water displaces it.)
  6. Place the plates in a warm dark room.
  7. Check the seeds daily, and water with same amount per material when that material starts to feel dry.
  8. Record your observations in a logbook, noting which seeds germinated when and how well they germinated. Measure sprouts as they emerge for comparison.

A simple log of daily observations will record the results clearly:






No growth.

No growth.

No growth.


Still no.

Seed seems to be opening beneath the fold.

Still no.


Soil seems to be cresting—pushed up.

White shoot emerging from seed.

Seed opening.


A line graph that maps all three may visually display the results:

Terms/Concepts: Germination; Sprouting; Embryonic; Dormancy


Jane Frances Healey taught for many years at both the college and high school levels. Currently, she's a freelance writer in the San Francisco area, and she enjoys doing research on a wide variety of topics.

How likely are you to recommend to your friends and colleagues?

Not at all likely
Extremely likely