Children love accompanying their parents to farmers markets and sowing seeds in their own backyards, but one day they may want to know the real nitty gritty surrounding the whole process. How does this seed turn into an apple? What makes it grow? And just what does the sun have to do with it all anyway? Delving into the science behind the process may help your curious plant aficionado make a stronger connection between the food on the breakfast table, and the farmer who helped to bring it there.
Most plants begin their life as a seed. If a seed in the ground has enough moisture and warmth, it will sprout, or "germinate" into a seedling. The tiny sprout sends a root down into the ground (soil) in search of water and minerals, and a stem with simple leaves breaks through the soil and reaches towards the sun. Plants use the energy from sunlight to turn carbon dioxide and water (either from rain or a trusty watering can) into their food. This is called "photosynthesis." Using this food, the plant continues to grow and develop its first set of true leaves. In time, the plant's roots and stems have grown large enough to support the development of buds, which in turn flower, and finally, produce fruit. The final stage of the cycle involves the fruit, which holds seeds, falling to the ground, where the seeds begin the life cycle all over again.
If explaining the stages of this cycle are making your child's head spin, head straight to Google Books, where you can find full-color, in depth photos and text explaining this process in the simplest of terms, and this website that features tons of fun plant oriented links for kids. Check out From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons at your local library to inspire your small gardener, soak some seeds and see what sprouts, or watch what happens when all those pumpkins start to break down this fall. Watching growth, decay, and eventual renewal may be the best learning tools to explain this simple, yet complicated process of the living world of plants all around us!
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