Adventures in Ethics and Science

Nature study at home.


How a Seed Grows by Helene J. Jordan. Illustrated by Loretta Krupinski.

This is a nifty science book for little kids. Our favorite thing about this book is that it’s all about getting empirical.

After some unassuming storybook text (with lovely illustrations) about different kinds of seeds and the different kinds of plants that grow from them, the book gets down to business and lays out an experiment for the young reader to do: Plant a dozen bean seeds and see what happens to them over time.

After planting the seeds, each in its own eggshell or other container, and watering them daily, on day 3 you dig up the first seed and examine it it. Two days later, you dig up the second seed and see what’s happening. Every few days you dig up another seed so you can observe the roots growing and developing root hairs. Once the shoots start pushing out of the soil in the containers with the not-yet excavated seeds, the kids can examine the growth of the plants without digging them up. At this point, if the kids are still interested, they can plant the bean seedlings in the ground.

The charm of this book is not just that it lays out a hands-on experiment for kids to do. It also makes it clear to the kids that there is likely to be some variation in what is observed — not only might your bean seeds grow more quickly or more slowly than the day-by-day development illustrated in the book, but that your 12 beans of the same kind might develop at different rates, even if you do your best to plant them and water them just the same. As well, the idea of sacrificing growing seeds to learn something is presented in a way that kids can handle. (If a book doesn’t give you permission, sometimes kids are a little too precious with the seeds they have planted.)

This is a fun way to get your hands dirty.


  1. #1 beajerry
    July 31, 2006

    I dunno, Bush just vetoed doing stuff like this didn’t he?

  2. #2 Craig Pennington
    July 31, 2006

    My 3yo daughter planted a seed in a paper cup as part of a local library story time activity. One of my favorite pictures of her shows her in a hat showing of the growing plant in the cup with a huge proud smile and dirty fingers (it’s my desktop at work.) A little after that picture was taken, we replanted the plant in our garden where it was promptly devoured by some local wildlife. She was so sad. “Didn’t the birds know it was my plant?” I try to explain that animals don’t always see things the way we do. It is a little sad to see the sweet lions-and-zebras-as-friends view of the world broken, but it is amazing and exciting to watch her learn and grow.

  3. #3 Uncle Fishy
    August 1, 2006

    If they never eat bean sprouts again you’ll know where it all started.

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