As many of us begin planting seeds and starting gardens this spring, you may be wondering how to get your children involved. Join me as I explain how you can turn reading a seed packet into a literacy in science activity. Only one seed packet is required for this garden themed lesson.
Kids of all ages can benefit from this activity. You may even find them eager to help you plant out a few of the seeds in your garden or in a garden of their own. Little ones are natural explorers and are eager to help once they feel valued and needed.
Middle and high school aged children will not only practice literacy skills, but develop interest in new science concepts. Binomial nomenclature, pollination methods, and climate can all be taught alongside this activity.
Choosing Your Seed Packet
For this activity, I am going to look at a packet of Zinnia seeds. I selected Zinnias because they are an easy to grow annual which I have experience successfully growing from seed. Use what you have on hand or go to your local store and pick out a few varieties together. The type of seed in not important, unless you want to actually have them plant them out in the garden.
Since this activity is geared towards children, I selected a seed packet that had a mix of graphics including a large colorful picture, a diagram of a seedling, and a chart. These things are not vital, but they can help make the activity more interesting.
Science Key Words
Seed packets are full of scientific terms and vocabulary. The words listed below were all found on my one seed packet!
|frost||last frost date||average|
Reading a Seed Packet Based on Skill Level
Learning Letters and Numbers
For toddlers and little ones that are not yet reading, I would focus on basic key words. These include butterfly, flower, bloom, and seedling. Using the images on the packet, you can point to the images that show the different terms in picture form.
One of my packets has a picture of a butterfly standing on a flower. I am able to have a discussion about flowers and how they benefit butterflies just by looking at that image with my child.
Even if little ones are too young to read the text, they will enjoy being read to. Point to the words as you go and stop to discuss what different things mean. Toddlers who are learning letters and numbers will proudly exclaim when they identify one of the letters or numbers that they know.
A seed packet can contain complex language, but there are simple terms mixed in the text. Glancing at my packet, I spot the following words that early readers may be able to identity.
Take the lead on the reading, but encourage them to participate by stopping and pausing at words they know or are trying to learn. Seed packets provide the perfect opportunity for a literacy lesson because children will be excited to see the seeds and plant them after. Practicing literacy using real world text can make a child interested in learning how to read.
When children have the basics of reading down, now is the time to add in those complex terms. You can focus on words that may be new to them. Even middle school aged students, will be faced with new terms when reading a seed packet. Seed companies use science specific vocabulary terms along with adjectives that you child may not be familiar with.
Have them make a list of words that they are not sure that they know. Children can conduct research independently using books or the internet. If this activity is done with a group, terms can be divided among kids. Discussions about what they learned can be a culminating activity were they share their research with the group.
Exploring the term and concept of open pollinated heirloom seeds can be an entire research project. This activity could be used an introduction to a broader topic on seed collection and heirloom plants.
There many science concepts that can be discussed by looking at a seed packet. Let’s go through some together using my Zinnia packet as the example.
Annual vs PERENNIAL Flowers and Plants
Most packets will contain the phrase “your average frost date” somewhere on the packet. With your child you can explore questions such as:
- What is the difference between an annual and a perennial?
- How is knowing your last frost date important?
- Or even, what is a frost date?
Older children will know what the words average, frost and date. They might be able to come up with their own definition of the term average frost date, based on prior knowledge. To learn more about frost dates check out this previous blog article or look up your frost date using the Farmer’s Almanac’s website.
CHARACTERISTICS of The PLant and flower
The description on the back of the packet where it describes the plant is full of adjectives and adverbs. Seed companies usually use thematic words to describe their plants.
- What are the unique characteristics of this plant?
- How will this plant look when it flowers?
- Why would a seed company use so many adjectives to describe a plant?
All of these are questions that can be sparked by reading the description on the front and back of the seed packet.
Middle and high school aged children who are learning about genus and species can practice binomial nomenclature by reading a seed packet. Rich discussions about the following topics can be explored together:
- What is binomial nomenclature?
- Comparing common names to scientific names of plants
- Why is it beneficial to call plants by their scientific name?
- How to decode a plant’s scientific name
If your child is learning Latin, reading a seed packet provides a real life example of why Latin is still used today. Latin plays an important role in naming and classifying plants and plant species even in today’s modern world.
8 Steps to Extend the Lesson
- Research your last frost date
- Count backwards from that date to find out when to plant
- Follow the directions and plant the seeds
- Record on a calendar the date of planting
- Track how many days it takes for seedlings to emerge
- As your plants grow, record how tall they grow
- Draw illustrations of the plants at different stages of growth
- Design your own seed packet and save seeds from your plants
Share Your Passion for Gardening with Children
There is no right or wrong way to conduct this activity. Follow your child’s lead and go where their interest lies. If working with multiple children or children of different ages, they can have discussions among themselves and learn from each other. This would be a fun activity to do with grandchildren or in a school setting.
Gardeners can hardly wait to start growing seeds in preparation for the coming growing season. Why not share some of your enthusiasm with a little one. By reading a seed packet with your little ones you might turn them into passionate gardeners too!