Ann MacArthur Primary School second graders aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty in order to understand terms such as embryo and cotyledon. The students in Tara Rice’s class dissected various seeds and planted others in order to understand these words and the entire life cycle of a plant.

Scooping spoonfuls of dirt into small plastic cups and digging their small fingers into the dirt to create pockets for their seeds, the children learned that they needed to leave space for the plant to grow and for air to circulate. The young gardeners then covered their seeds with more dirt and placed the cups on the windowsill where they could get sunshine.  

When it was time to plant the seeds, they already knew that they would grow if they had water, warmth and air. They understood that roots would grow first, downward, followed by a stem pushing up toward the sunlight, finally showing the first leaves and making its own food.  

“What is the food storage called?” asked Ms. Rice. Throughout the room hands went up as students tried to remember the word cotyledon. Hands also shot up to share the name of the tiny plant inside the seed. Not only did they all know this was the embryo, they also knew how to find it in the seeds they dissected.  

“By handling the seeds, opening them up and planting their own seeds, the students develop an interest in the topic and naturally retain more of the information,” Ms. Rice explained. “In a few weeks, they will have a lovely plant to bring home.”