September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Introduction to the Scientific Method Lesson Plan

Posted: Saturday, September 1st, 2012

by Jeff Orlinsky

It is the start of a new year and you are looking for new way to start your class.  How about introducing the scientific method with this simple experiment? Your students will investigate how increasing salt solutions affect seed germination, and the results can be used to make connections to different topics in your class.

Grades: 7th – 12th Grade
Subjects: Biology / Life Sciences, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, English-Language Arts, Investigation and Experimentation, Life Sciences. Although this lesson would work in any science class, it is intended for a life science class.
Topics: Germination, salinization; Extensions:  osmosis, Human influences on the environment, plant growth.

Duration: 20 min Prep + 1 hour Activity + 1 hour Post

Setting: Classroom

Salt Lab Handout

soil salinity


Zip-loc bags, paper towels

NaCl concentrations  – 0, 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0 grams/100 mL H2O

Distilled water

Graduated cylinders, 25 mL

Seeds, i.e. radish, lettuce


Introduce the topic of salinization of soils: soils and water contain minute quantities of dissolved minerals, and repeated watering and drying out of the soil increases the concentration of these minerals in the soil.  This is known as soil salinization.  Have students read the article, or parts of the article.

Preparation:  you can make the salt solutions ahead of time, or you can have the students make the salt solutions.  I have the students prepare the solutions, as this is my way of introducing metric systems and developing good measuring skills.  I group the students to lower my cost, and each group runs the control (no salt) plus one variable (salt solution).

Have the students place 10 seeds on a paper towel, fold the towel, and place it into a Ziploc bag. Next, the students add the solution to the Ziploc bag and close it securely.
Check the bags daily, and after the 4th day count the number of seeds that have germinated.

Have each group determine the percent of seeds that have germinated, and collect the data from the class, averaging counts where the different solutions were duplicated. In addition, have the students graph their data. In most cases, the results are very clear.  As part of the conclusion, have the students predict why the salt may be affecting the seed germination.

Throughout the year, I have my students return to this experiment, and I incorporate this experiment’s results into my lessons. For example, in my lessons on membranes and osmosis, I ask the students to review and update their conclusions.

Written by Jeff Orlinsky

Jeff Orlinsky

Jeff Orlinsky teaches science at Warren High School and is a member of CSTA.

7 Responses

  1. What a great idea for a lab. I think I will use this in my ecology unit!

  2. I really like this lab too! It seems that the links for the handout and article are no longer active, any chance you could email them to me or repost them? Thanks so much!

  3. Thank you for your comment Connor, I have updated the links!.

  4. […] September’s e-CCS, I introduced a lab about salinization and seed germination and one of the concepts illustrated was […]

  5. […] Lab Activity: How Salt Affects Seed Germination […]

  6. Hi Jeff,

    The link to the informational text is broken. Can you provide it for me? I would like to use this lab with teachers and students this year.

    Thank you!

  7. The link has been fixed

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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.