Authors: Jennifer Hartman and Angelica Townsend

Stems and Roots: What Lies Beneath
A Guided Inquiry Lesson
This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These
National Science Education Standards are drawn from Content Knowledge for Life
Cycles of Organisms. The science subject matter focuses on the science facts, concepts,
principles, theories, and models that are important for all students to know, understand,
and use.
Subject: Science; Grade Levels 3-4
Purpose: The purpose of this lesson is for the students to demonstrate their knowledge
of the root and stem systems of a plant and their role in the transportation of water and
Student Learning Outcomes:
Given a lab worksheet, students will demonstrate their ability to identify the root and
stem systems of a plant and the role they play in the transportation of water and minerals
with a 90% accuracy rate.
Prior Knowledge:
Teacher will present a Power Point® presentation to the class on roots and stems. The
Power Point® will entail the following aspects of these systems which students will
begin to learn.
1. Function of the roots:
a. Food storage
b. Support for the plant
c. Nutrient flow
2. Types of roots:
a. Tap root
b. Hair root
3. Function of the stem:
a. Support
b. Nutrient flow
 Carrot with top, one per group
 Food coloring
 Celery stalk with leaves
 Magnifying glasses
 Newspaper (for catching dirt from the uprooted plant)
 A single-stem flowering potted plant
 Vase
 Water
 Power Point
Behavior Expectations: Today we will be performing an experiment. Some of the
materials we are going to use are messy. I expect you to be careful and abide by the
safety rules when using the materials. I expect the proper clean-up after the experiment.
Motivation: Put a picture of a plant on the overhead. Ask the students what makes the
flower grow (water and nutrients). Ask the students how they think the leaves and the
petals got the nutrients they needed to grow from the ground. Tell the students that today
they will be learning about the underground root systems that help plants to grow.
Data Collection:
1. Divide students into groups of four. Pass out carrots, small potted plant,
magnifying glass, and newspaper. Hold up the carrot and ask the students to
examine their carrot along with you.
2. Tell the students that the carrots are actually tap roots.
3. Ask them to examine their carrots with their magnifying glass. What do they see?
4. Ask the students what they think the small hairy structures are extending from the
carrot body.
5. These are the hair roots that help the carrot plant absorb water and other nutrients
from the soil.
6. Ask the students to draw and label the root system of the carrot – include tap and
hair roots.
7. Ask students to spread the newspaper across their desks while the teacher models
how to spread the paper properly.
8. Show the plant to the children and identify the parts of the plant that are above the
9. Ask the children how the plant can stand up on such a narrow stem.
10. Explore the idea of roots by asking if all plants have roots and if all roots are the
same. You might have several plants available with different types of roots so that
the children can work in groups.
11. Tell the students to watch carefully as you model how to remove the plant from
the soil gently.
12. After the plants are removed, have the students gently brush the soil off the plant
13. Draw the children's attention to the overall arrangement of the root system. Allow
them to observe the roots with a magnifying glass.
Data Collection Procedure (continued):
1. Pass out lab worksheets, celery, water, vases, and food coloring.
2. Ask the students how they think the root and stem systems work together. Tell the
students that we will also be exploring the stem and how it allows the water and
other nutrients from the soil to get to the flowers and leaves.
3. Put water and a few drops of food coloring in the vases.
4. Place the celery (leafy side up) in the vase.
5. Have students write their hypothesis on their lab worksheet on what will happen
to the celery during the day.
6. Draw the celery and document the data on the lab worksheet in the first section.
7. Throughout the day, students will check their experiment and record any further
Debriefing and Checking for Understanding:
Data Processing:
At the end of the day, students will share their lab findings with the class. After, students
will turn in their lab worksheets and their carrot drawings. Teacher will display plant
root drawings in the classroom for later reference.
Appraisal: Teacher will collect lab worksheet and root drawing and check for 90%
accuracy on both.
Additional Readings:
Plants and Flowers by Julie Snyder and Kimberlee Graves
Garden by Robert Maass
Have You Seen Trees? by Joanne Oppenheim
I Took a Walk by Henry Cole
Roots and Stem Data Sheets
Answer the following questions.
4. Name the three most important functions of the roots:
Name the two main types of roots:
6. Name the two main functions of the stem:
7. How do you think the root and stem systems work together?
8. What can you conclude from this experiment?
9. What would happen if the root or stem system weren’t working properly?
Related documents