MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > Investigating Germination in Plants: An Inquiry Approach to Germination Growth in Pet Plants

Investigating Germination in Plants: An Inquiry Approach to Germination Growth in Pet Plants

Jennifer Perry, Twin Oaks Middle School, Prior Lake, Minnesota, based on an activity from Becky Stark at Hidden Oaks Middle School, Prior Lake, MN.
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In this life science classroom lab, students investigate the effects of a variable on the germination of a small plant. Students develop their own question to research, and they will test their question in a small scale lab. Students will compare the growth of their variable to a control. Plants will be grown in a micro centrifuge tube for one week. Students will write a lab report to report their findings. A description of students worksheets and lab report template is included.

Learning Goals

This activity is designed for students to create and run a scientific investigation while manipulating one variable of their choice.
Students will learn to gather data, and analyze the impacts of their data on plant growth.
Students will learn how to conduct the following activities: develop questions, observe and record data, analyze data, and draw conclusions.
Students will discover the meanings to the following vocabulary terms: germination, photosynthesis, seed, and seed coat.

Context for Use

The activity is designed for a 7th grade life science class, however, it can be easily adapted for a higher or lower grade level. This lab is inexpensive, so it can be done with large class sizes relatively easily. This is an observation based lab that will take approximately a week to complete. It takes one day in class for the lab set-up, and it will take approximately 15 minutes on the next four consecutive days. Students will be expected to care for their plant outside of the classroom, and will need to have access to a computer to type their final lab report.
The following materials are needed to complete this activity for each student or pair of lab partners: seeds, small amount of potting soil, 1 micro centrifuge tubes, eye dropper, 75 cm pieces of string, meter stick, water, and a sharpie marker.
Students should understand the scientific method, and understand the process of photosynthesis before entering into this lab.

This activity is best taught in conjunction with a study on plants in a life science course. This activity fits well after discussing photosynthesis, and the basic elements of plant growth. This activity has a lot of potential uses, and can easily be adapted to introduce a variety of plant concepts.

Subject: Biology
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity
Grade Level: Middle (6-8)

Description and Teaching Materials

Introduction: Divide the class into lab groups of 4 to 5 students. Put a living plant in the center of each group. Ask students to list observations of how that plant grows independently, then as a group about the plant in front of them. Next, ask the students to develop a series of questions they have about how a plants grows. I then would introduce the activity, students will be growing a 'pet plant' for the week. Our goal is to learn what factors affects the plants ability to germinate. Students will need to develop a question and design an experiment to test one factor that may affect a plants ability to germinate. Demonstrate how to set-up the control plant, and then allow the students to create their pet plants. Pet plants must be worn for the entire week at all times, and students will receive some type of bonus, or points for bringing them to class each day to make observations on the growth of their plants.

Materials that are needed to complete this lab are as follows: seeds, small amount of potting soil, 1 micro centrifuge tubes, eye dropper, 75 cm pieces of string, meter stick, water, and a sharpie marker.

Upon completion of the week, discuss the observations students made of their pet plants. Demonstrate how to analyze their data and draw conclusions. Introduce the parts of the lab report, and give students time to write-up their findings. Randomly pick three students to share their results at the end of the lab.

Student Handout (Microsoft Word 29kB Sep25 07)

Teaching Notes and Tips

This is a great way to excite students about plants, however, use caution when assigning point values for bringing their pets to class each day. Students often cheat and share plants with students in different hours. I give each hour a different color yarn for their necklace to wear the plants to prevent sharing of plants between hours. I like this lab because the amount of supplies are inexpensive, and easy to obtain. Students sometimes tend to over-water their plants and can easily rot out their seed, and their tube will begin to smell if they are not careful. I have done this activity in the past, but have not given students the opportunity to pick the variable that they are testing, and develop their own questions on plant growth.


Students will need to keep track of the observations they will be making on their variable and control pet plants. I will collect their data sheets that indicated that they brought their plant to class every day, and I will collect their lab report write-ups. When grading I will be focusing on the details of their observations, the data analysis, and conclusions that they develop about the experiment.


7.I.B.2. The students will recognize that a variable is a condition that may influence the outcome of an investigation and know the importance of manipulating one variable at a time.
7.IV.F.1. The student will know that plants use the energy in light to make sugars out of carbon dioxide and water

References and Resources