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ACTIVITY: Sprout Your Own Sprouts

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices:

NGSS Crosscutting Concepts:

NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas:

The activity below draws from the content in the page Materials for Plant Growth

<p>Fig. 1. Sprouts are a nutritious and easy to grow snack!&nbsp;</p>Phenomenon:

Seeds can sprout without soil (Fig. 1)!

Inquiry:

How do plants survive and thrive without soil?

Guiding Questions:

  1. What do people/animals need to grow bigger?

  2. How are plants different than animals?

  3. What are the main things that plants need to grow?

Activity:

Watch as your sprout seedlings flourish into a nutrious snack in a matter of days (Fig. 2)!

Fig. 2. It's only a few hours before you begin to see the tails sprout from your seeds!
Image by Emily Sesno

Materials:

  • Glass Jar (or clear plastic)
  • Mesh or sprouting screen (shade cloth, reusable produce bags, cheese cloth)
  • Rubber band
  • Water
  • Drying rack or container to catch water (so you can place your jar with the cloth upside down to drain)
  • Sprout Seeds of choice (You can sprout any variety of dried legumes, like lentils or beans. A variety of sprouting seeds can also be ordered through vendors such as Sprout People)

Teacher Recommendations

  • The size of the jar needed depends on how many students you have in each group and how many sprouts you want to grow. We tested 1/2 cup - 1 liter size jars.
  • It is important that the seeds are touroughly rinsed twice a day to prevent them from going bad. Shake the sprouts vigorously during the rinsing process!
  • The optimal moisture will depend on the type of sees. In our trials, the larger seeds like lentils dry easily (so you may need to make sure they have enough water). However, small seeds like fennel and alfalfa may need more effort to dry effectiely. You can dry your sprouts using centrifugal force! Place the jar upside down in a reusable produce bag, small tote bag, or even a sock and spin it in circles. This will force water out of the jar. Be careful not to let go! 
  • A little bit goes a long way with sprouts! The figure 2 example shows 1/4 cup of alfalfa seeds resulting in over 2 cups of sprouts.
  • Seeds and sprouts don't necessarily need sunlight until they start developing leaves and begin to photosynthesize. 

Notes on Materials:

  • Instead of a mesh and rubberband, you can use a sprout screen and canning lid (see examples here). 
  • Seed choice:

Seeds will begin sprouting within a day and will continue to sprout for a week or more. They can be eaten throughout their growth phases for a nutrient packed snack. The instructions written below are for alfalfa sprouts. Some details may vary depending on the seed. For instructions specific to other seeds, check out Sprout People.

  • <p>Fig. 3. Sprouts grow to different sizes, as seen here with a soybean sprout and mung bean sprout side by side.</p>Pulses (legumes; pea family):
    alfalfa, clover, fenugreek, lentil, pea, chickpea, mung bean and soybean (bean sprouts).
  • Cereals:
    oat, wheat, maize (corn), rice, barley, and rye
  • Pseudocereals:
    quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat
  • Oilseeds:
    sesame, sunflower, almond, hazelnut, hemp, linseed, and peanut.
  • Brassica (cabbage family):
    broccoli, cabbage, watercress, mustard, mizuna, radish, and daikon (kaiware sprouts), rocket (arugula), tatsoi, turnip).

Procedure:

  1. Follow along on your worksheet to conduct your experiment and answer the questions.
  2. Read the background information on your sheet to learn about seeds:

Background

<p>Fig. 3. A deeper dive into a seed reveals hidden parts of the embryo and the stored nutrients that allows it to grow.</p>

A seed is a ready-packed suitcase of nutrition (Fig. 3). Inside is a dormant embryo that can eventually grow into a plant. The hull is a protective coating to keep the embryo safe. In order to start germination, we add water to activate the seed. The water opens up the hull and allows the embryo to use the nutrients inside the seed to fuel the plant's growth. In addition to water, the seed needs oxygen to start growing. 

As the seed sprouts and starts to grow into a plant, roots will develop to collect nutrients and water. Eventually, leaves will grow to absorb sunlight and carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air, which the plant will use to photosynthesize. (Note, plants also abosorb oxygen from the air for respiration. This is especially evident at night when there is no sunlight for photosynthesis.) 


Sprout Activity Vocabulary

  • Embryo: the part of a seed which develops into a plant, consisting (in the mature embryo of a higher plant) of a plumule, a radicle, and one or two cotyledons.
  • Germination: the process by which an organism grows from a seed or similar structure.
  • Hull: the outer covering of a fruit or seed, especially the pod of peas and beans, or the husk of grain.
  • Photosynthesis: the process by which plants use energy from sunlight to grow. Photosynthesis uses carbon dioxide and water and releases oxygen.
  • Respiration: the process of breaking down food to usable energy inside a cell. Aerobic respiration uses oxygen and releases carbon dioxide and water.

Activate your seeds

  1. Measure out the desired amount of seeds into the jar.
    Note: Fig. 2 shows 1/4 cup of alfalfa seeds to start, resulting in over 2 cups of sprouts - a little bit goes a long way!
  2. Add enough water so all seeds are covered. 
  3. Cover the jar with the mesh, securing with a rubber band. 
  4. Soak your seeds overnight.
  5. After soaking, rinse and drain your seeds thoroughly.
    Note: make sure your seeds are really dry - they can go bad quickly if they are left sitting in a lot of moisture.
  6. Secure the mesh in place, and leave the jar titled upside down so water can continue to drain freely.
    Note: sprouts need oxygen, so be sure to find a place (such as a drying rack) that can allow air flow while seeds are growing.

Daily care of your seeds

  1. Your seeds need to be rinsed and drained at least once per day (more if you can!). 
  2. Turn the jar upright, and fill with enough water to cover the seeds. Allow seeds to have a "mini-soak" for about 5-10 minutes. Shake the seeds in the jar. Rinse and drain.
  3. Rinse and drain again thoroughly
  4. Draw a picture of one of your sprouts (choose one that represents average growth).
  5. Resecure the mesh, and leave the jar titled upside down so water can continue to drain freely.
  6. Repeat steps 9-13 one or two times a day for the next few days. 
  7. Sprouts are packed with nutrition and can be eaten as they grow! Try eating a sprout each day to see how the flavor changes!

Activity Questions

  1. Describe what your seeds looked like as they began to sprout.

  2. What did you do each day to help your seeds sprout and grow?

  3. What happened to your sprouts as time went on?

  4. Draw a picture of one of your finished sprouts. Label the leaves, stem, and roots. If your sprout still has some of the seed, label that also.

  5. Why do you think your sprouts were able to grow without dirt?

  6. Based on your investigation of sprouts, what are the key ingredients that a seed needs to grow?

Further Investigations

  1. Manipulate variables: Choose a variable that affects your sprouts growth that you would like to manipulate. Make a plan to explore that in an experiment.
    1. Refer back to the activity "Can Plants Grow Without Soil?" for ideas on variables and how to manipulate them.

 

 

Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawaii, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.