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Bean Garden

In this activity, students will observe the germination of a plant from a seed, and explore what factors are needed for growth. Planting a "Bean Garden" in a clear cup or bag provides a demonstration for how the roots, stems and leaves develop.

Plants play an important role in the natural world. Not only are they a healthy part of our meals, providing nutrients, vitamins, minerals, fibre and water, but they are also the base of the entire food web! Plants use solar energy to grow, producing sugars that animals eat to live and grow as well.

Seeds germinate or "sprout" when the moisture and temperature conditions signal to the embryonic plant inside the protective seed coat that conditions outside are good to begin to grow.

The seed grows small roots and shoots that push through the surface of the soil. The shoots develop into a small seedling—branches with leaves.

The seedling grows into a mature plant and grows flowers, fruits, leaves or nuts that contain seeds.


  • Observe the germination of a seed.

  • Identify the basic parts of a seed and plant.

  • Identify what is needed to allow germination for a seed and growth for a plant.


  • Per Student:
    bean seeds (pinto beans or scarlet runner beans work well)
    paper towels
    clear plastic cup or ziplock bag
    space on a sunny windowsill

Key Questions

  • How long does it take for the seed to sprout?
  • What part of the plant appears first?
  • How much does it grow each day?
  • Does your plant grow faster in a sunny spot or a shady spot?

What To Do

  1. Soak bean seeds in water overnight. This softens them and helps them to sprout.
  2. Fold a paper towel in half or thirds. Use it to line the sides and the bottom of the cup/bag. Scrunch a second paper towel and use it to fill the middle of the cup/bag, to keep everything in place.
  3. Dampen the paper towels with water. Don’t soak them!
  4. Slide a few bean seeds between the paper towel and the sides of the cup/bag, where they can be clearly seen. TEACHER TIP: Do not slide the beans all the way to the bottom of the cup/bag so the roots have space to grow visibly downwards.
  5. Put the cup/bag in a sunny spot and keep the paper towel damp. Bags can be taped directly onto a window!
  6. Draw or photograph the seed every day to keep track of the changes.  TEACHER TIP: Include a ruler for scale to allow measurement of growth over time.



  • Plant a dish of grass and mow it with scissors!Turn sprouting seeds into the hair of a funny character.
  • Measure and graph the growth of your seedling. Create a pooled data set of the class bean plant growth. What trends are seen?
  • Discuss how growth is different between types of plants (e.g. ferns vs pole beans vs apple trees vs cedar trees). Why would this be?
  • Create a controlled experiment to examine the variables effecting bean growth (variables might include light, water, temperature).
  • Examine the effects of fertilizer or soil as a variable effecting growth.

Other Resources

Aeon |Video | Sprouting Bean