Formal learning about plants may begin as early as preschool. By third grade, children are considering the life cycles of plants. Combined with some basic lessons about plant parts, needs and processes, this background knowledge is a boon to students when they create life cycle posters of flowering plants. It is also helpful to precede such a project with other lessons about the idea of something being cyclical, such as the life cycle of an animal.
Locate resources about flowering plant life cycles to help prepare children to make a flowering plant life cycle chart. Teacher stores have good workbooks, such as the "Giant Science Resource Book," which opens with a 26-page section on plants. Online resources include Enchanted Learning's sequencing cards for the life cycle of flowering plants.
Assess children's background knowledge of the phrase "life cycle" as well as their knowledge about flowering plants. Pretesting is helpful before holding informal discussions on these topics. Then strengthen their understanding by reading aloud a picture book about a flowering plant, such as a pumpkin. Emphasise the definition of "cycle" as being something that repeats without end similar to a circle.
Explain the steps of a flowering plant's life cycle: (1) The seed is planted in soil. (2) It sprouts (germinates). (3) The stem and leaves emerge above the soil. (4) Blossoms appear, and wind, insects or animals carry pollen from the blossoms to other flowers. (5) Seeds, fruit or vegetables form. (6) The seeds or foods containing seeds drop to the ground and get covered with dirt. (7) The cycle begins again.
Gather vocabulary from the picture book and the plant discussions. Over at least a week, discuss and practice words that describe the plant, its cycle and its needs. These would minimally include leaf, stem, root, seed, flower, fruit, vegetable, sun, water, soil, photosynthesis, pollinate and insect.
Play "Fly Swatter Vocabulary." Draw a picture of the plant on the big erasable white board. Write the vocabulary on the board. Divide the children into two even groups, giving the first person in each line a fly swatter. Name a plant part or a word such as "soil." The first person to swat that part of the drawing wins a point. Each person takes more than one turn.
Demonstrate how to make the life cycle poster. Use markers or crayons to draw a circle with a 12-inch or larger diameter on a big, blank sheet of paper. Label the poster "Life Cycle of a Pumpkin" (or whatever flowering plant you have chosen). Draw a picture of the flowering plant in the centre and ask the children to name its parts for labelling.
Ask what the first stage is in a plant's life to see if the children identify planting the seed. Mark a point on the circle, label the stage of growth and draw a simple picture of that stage. Continue clockwise, marking all the stages listed in Step 3.
Assign children to work in pairs or independently researching a flowering plant. When they are done gathering information, they can draw life cycle posters to display.