Blooming Curiosity: Garden Science Projects for Kids

The kids are home for the summer, filled with energy and looking for fun things to do.

How can you entertain them, while also teaching them things that are interesting as well as useful?

One way to do this is to create science experiments and projects that get the kids outdoors and in the garden. Many are easily adaptable for different age groups. 

Start by telling your child what you are going to do—you’re going to do a science project together. Let them tell you what they think the goal of the project will be, and what they predict is going to happen. Later, you can look back and see if their results and predictions were right.

Here are five easy, fun science projects that kids of all ages will remember when their teacher asks them what they did over the summer. 

The secret’s in the celery

Let’s learn about osmosis.

Instruct the kids that they can change the color of a stalk of celery by putting it in different colored water. It is extra fun if they grow the celery themselves in the garden, but just a stalk of celery will do.

Place the stalk in water colored with a few drops of food coloring. Now, together, observe the stalk after a few hours, and take notes about any changes you see. Then take another look in 24 hours, then in 48 hours. 

The leaves on the stalk of celery should have turned the color of the water. You can cut off the bottom of the stalk to see where the stalk absorbed the water, which illustrates how plants soak up water—known as osmosis.

You can also try this with white daisies or white clover and see the petals of the flowers turn the color of the water in which they are placed. 

Let’s grow carrot tops!

Carrots are an easy vegetable for young gardeners to grow.

Their fernlike tops are pretty in containers for a sunny window. Soon, white, lacy flowers will bloom. This project is great for small children, and it requires no special equipment. Your littles will see results very soon, and that quick “payoff” always helps keep them engaged in the project. 

You will not regrow the carrot after the top is removed, but you can make the tops grow and flower. All you need is a shallow bowl with about an inch of water and a carrot top of about 1-inch thick. Put the top with the greens in the shallow water and set it in a moderately light window and change the water daily. You’ll start to see sprouts and new leaf growth in about three days. After a few weeks, there should be enough root structure for you to transplant it into a container of potting soil, and let it keep growing. 

To pinch, or not to pinch?

Does pinching off the top make more flowers grow? Or, does it help the plant grow more side shoots? Zinnias and marigolds are good for this project. Have two plants of each variety. Take pictures and record how many blooms grow from each set. 

Develop the skill of observation

One of the most important parts of science is simply watching and recording observations, which can later be used in lots of different ways.

First, buy a special gardening notebook, and let the kids personalize it and decorate it as they would like. Then, they can go out the in garden and take notes on all kinds of things, like the temperature, the weather, what is blooming, what kinds of birds they’re seeing, what kinds of bug are around. Talk to them about noticing what they’re seeing, as opposed to just looking and moving on. Then ask questions, like:

  • Do butterflies land on one plant more than another?
  • Which leaves in the yard does your wildlife like to nibble on?
  • Are there birds nesting in any bushes? What kind of birds?
  • Touch the bark of three distinct kinds of trees. What are they like?
  • Look for bugs on plants. Did you find any? Are they at the roots or on the leaves?
  • Which plants in your yard grow better in sun, and which grow better in shade?

Soil matters

Help the kids find out for themselves why soil matters.

Place different soils, such as regular potting mix, sand, and heavy clay into different pots and pour the same amount of water in each. Record how fast they drain. Record how fast they dry out after a few days of not watering. 

  • Plant something in each of the three pots. Observe why some plants will die in the wrong soil, even if they have the right amount of sunlight and water. 
  • Talk about the role of worms in soil, for the health of a plant’s roots, and for soil drainage. 
  • Talk about the nutrients in the soil that the plant needs to live. List some of the microorganisms that live in soil that help sustain plants. 

When kids learn outdoors and can get their hands dirty, they will become part of the learning process and gain appreciation for the skills they learn. Perhaps they will even gain appreciation for the food and flowers in their garden.

Kids can learn biodiversity and natural life rhythms in their own backyard, through gardening and firsthand experiences that will teach them some fun science facts, as well as become happy summertime memories. 

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