Super Scientist Activity #1

Spring Into Action:  How fast do Leaves and Grass Grow?
What you need:
– a notebook or paper to to record observations, measurements, questions
– a pencil
– a crayon
– access to a tree you can reach
– grass, a blade for each day
– a tool for measuring length; the width of one of your fingers will work fine.

Questions you will answer:
How fast do leaves grow?
How fast does grass grow?
Do leaves and grass grow faster on days it rains than days it does not rain?
Your question about leaves and grass growing:  _____________________________(write in Science Journal)

Step One: Make Predictions Write in journal all the predictions you can think of about how the leaves and grass will change over five days. (examples below)
Example:  Leaves will grow more than the width of my finger each day. 
Example:  Leaves and grass will grow at the same speed. (or leaves faster or grass faster)

Step Two: Collect Data
1.  Find a branch on a tree that you can reach and has leaves that are starting to grow.
2.  Observe the branch and the leaves: How many leaves are there? How are they attached to the branch? What color are the leaves? Are all the leaves the same size? Where are they located on the branch. Write your observations in your Science journal.
3. Draw the branch and the leaves in your journal.
4.  Take a leaf off of the branch, picking one that is about the same size as the others.  Either make an outline of the leaf in your Science Journal or put it under a page and make a rubbing of it with the side of a crayon. Then measure the longest part of the leaf and record the measurement by the rubbing. Be sure to write the day next to the rubbing or outline.  Do this each day Monday through Friday. Also record any changes you note – for instance, change in “droopiness”, change in color.
5. Pull up a blade of grass by its roots. Measure the length of the grass from where it changes from white to green to the very tip of the blade of grass. Each day go to the same clump of grass and measure the length of one blade. Record in your Science Journal.
6. Put a cup or container outside in an open area not shaded by trees. This will be your rain gauge that will show how much it rains each day. Each day measure the depth of water that has accumulated since the previous day. Record in your Science Journal. Pour out the water and put the rain gauge back to collect any rain that falls. Do this each day.
7.  Assemble your data on the length of a leaf, length of a blade of grass, and the amount of rain for each day.  (Note that there will be no rain measurement for Day 1 because the rain gauge was not there to collect rain. A good way to do this is to record it in a table in your Science Journal  like this:

  Length of leaf Length of blade of grass Depth of rainwater
Day 1      
Day 2      
Day 3      
Day 4      
Day 5      

Step Three: Analyze your results How much did the leaves grow each day?  Assuming the grass was not cut, how fast did the grass grow each day?  Which grew faster, the grass or the leaves?  Did the grass or the leaves grow faster on days that it rained?  Were your predictions correct?  Why or why not?

Step Four: Conclusions Were there any problems with how you measured the leaves or the grass that might affect the results? Record your findings, ideas and further questions in your Science Journal. Finally, compare what is happening to leaves in the Spring (right now) to what happens to them in the fall. What might cause the differences between Spring and Fall?

Additional related activity:

Comments to parents/caregivers
– The purpose of this is to encourage students to observe leaves popping out and grass growing at this incredible time of the year and to develop their own questions (and answers).  It is the process of them doing this (and recording)  which will build good practices and a sense of competence.
– You can help them most by enjoying looking a the new leaves with them, asking questions about leaves that you had never thought about before, and encouraging students’ questioning.  Answers are definitely not required.
– Leaves on some bushes such as honeysuckle are already completely grown.  Just try to find a branch with small leaves that will be growing in the next week.  This can be a bush or a tree. 
– Be sure to celebrate all your student’s observations, including those unrelated to leaves and grass. Encourage them to write down in the Science Journal their observations and questions as well as measurements. If they are disgusted when they find poop, ask them what animal it came from, or how big the animal was. Lots of millipedes are out now, too!