September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

What Factors Affect Seed Germination?

Posted: Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

by Jeff Orlinsky

As you know, California Science Standards are changing and this year is a great time for teachers to examine old lab activities and modify them to the new standards. One of the changes in the standards is a focus on science and engineering practices, as listed below:

1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
2. Developing and using models
3. Planning and carrying out investigations
4. Analyzing and interpreting data
5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
7. Engaging in argument from evidence

The transition from our standard laboratory activities to one that incorporates the NGSS practices may seem impossible at first, but it is not. For example, here is one way you can approach the NGSS science practices. A couple of years ago, I wrote a germination lab lesson for this publication. The lab I described was focused on helping students reach a conclusion based on data collected from an experiment. This year, I have revised the same activity to incorporate the NGSS Science Practice: “planning and carrying out investigations.” This activity is designed to reinforce the idea that experiments require planning, and troubleshooting, the major difference between a NGSS lab activity and a non-NGSS lab activity.

Seedling

What factors affect seed germination?

Students will investigate which type of plant/seed has the fastest germination rate. At the end of the experiment, students will be able to give a reasonable explanation of their results.

Grades: 7th – 12th Grade
Science Practices: Asking questions, planning and carrying out investigations, and constructing explanations.

Topics: Germination

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

Materials

  • Zip-loc® bags, paper towels
  • Distilled water
  • Graduated cylinders, 25 mL
  • Seeds (i.e.) radish, lettuce, corn, beans, green peas (may be purchased from a local garden or hardware store)
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Activity:

Introduce the topic of seed germination. Have students read the article or parts of the article Get seeds started inside to kick-start summer veggies. – Note: This article is no longer available and the link has been removed.

  • Start by introducing the different types of plants and sizes of seeds and let them make observations about the seeds. Have students brainstorm about which type of seeds would germinate the fastest. Write their ideas on the board. Have the students defend their ideas. Typical responses might be: “Large seeds need more water to germinate,” or “ Softer seeds might germinate faster because the seed coat can easily split.” Ask them to rewrite their predictions as questions e.g. “Do larger seeds need more water to germinate than smaller seeds?”
  • After the students have brainstormed, have them form into groups and let them choose a question to answer.
  • Have them follow the procedures outlined on the Germination Procedure Handout.
  • 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 percentages.
  • Have the students graph their data. In most cases, the results may not be very clear. This is where we begin to focus on the NGSS science practices.
  • Have each group present their results and data to the class. In their presentations, they are to give possible reasons for their observations.
  • As part of the follow-up questions: ask the students. “What would you do differently? How would this change affect your results?”
  • If time permits have the students repeat this experiment based on their suggestions for improvement.

Written by Jeff Orlinsky

Jeff Orlinsky

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

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