Keep your kids off the couch this summer with this fun sunflower activity

Keep Your Kids Off the Couch This Summer with a S.T.E.M Sunflower Activity

Summer time is the best time of year; so many fruits, vegetables and flowers. One of the easiest flowers I’ve ever grown are Sunflowers.  They are so tall and bright when they bloom.  Plus it’s a great learning tool for kids.  Not to mention the wonderful snack they provide.

Using at home tools is one way to engage your children about life around them.  We live in the desert and being able to show how fruit/vegetables grow can be a little challenging but I find that this sunflower activity is a great model for teaching three important S.T.E.M. concepts at almost any age; observe, measure and analyze data.

Don’t have time to grow your own sunflowers?  Go to the bottom of the page for my data or grab some sunflowers from the grocery store or local farmer’s market and measure the sunflowers (circumference/diameter).  You can use my data (go to the end) to estimate how tall the flower stems from the grocery store might have been based on the size of the Sunflower.

Depending on the age of your children, I have provided a couple of options for this sunflower activity so that they may practice these basic S.T.E.M. process.  

For this activity we will be focusing on the height of the plant and the diameter of the Sunflower.  

The focus of the example questions are designed for a wide range of ages and could be used for kids in K-8th or 9th grade. 

You can focus on a broad range of biological concepts but all science starts with these three key elements; observe, measure and analyze data.

 

Observe: have kids plant the seeds; water the seeds and observe the plants every day or every 3 days after sprouting. 

Ants were my pollinators for these plants.  I rarely saw bees around my flowers.  Make sure the kids notice the insects to discuss pollinators later.  

Engage them by asking questions that require more than a “Yes” or “No”.

These sunflowers can grow to be taller than a typical 1st or2nd grade child, so use personal attributes like height to create a connection and make this information meaningful.

Observe

Have the kids plant seeds and water them. Then observe and write down what you see each day.

TIPS:

Notice any bugs, ants or bees.  Some bugs are pollinators and help fertilize the seeds. 

Look at the plant in the morning and evening to see how the bloom has moved from facing east to west and followed the sun throughout the day.

Did You Know: 

When sunflowers are ready to bloom they always face east.

Questions: 

Why do you think we water the plant?

How do plants get food from the soil?

Why are bees/ants around the plant? Why are they there?

Why do you think we planted the seeds outside? 

How tall do you think the flower will grow?

 

Measure: The plants can be measured every 3-days or once a week.  Measure the height and create a growth chart.  If your kids are too young to do this on their own help them and use stickers on a growth chart to help them see the increasing height.

At the end, you can measure height with Sunflower circumference (how big is the circle) or Sunflower radius (how wide is the circle, edge to edge across).

If you bought your sunflowers from the store/farmer’s market here is a blank record so your kids can enter their own data

 

ID number Height Sunflower Diameter Calculate estimated circumference

1

     

2

     

3

     

4

     

5

     

6

     

Measure 

To create growth chart measure the sunflower every 3-5 days

What to Measure?

Measure the height of the plant

Measure the diameter of the Sunflower

Count the seeds from different Sunflowers

 

Track Growth

Use stickers for younger kids to place on a pre-drawn growth chart.

Use the template below to write down your own data.

 

Questions: 

Ask question about how they will measure the plants

Will you measure from the ground to the top of the Sunflower or just the top of the stalk (base of the flower)?

Will you have more than one person record the height and compare?

Analyze Data: 

Graph the data to help your children identify trends (such as growth trends, or trends related to height and Sunflower circumference)

Ask them questions about their data.

Examples: Why do you think the growth curve when up/down? (Maybe weather caused the plants to die/grow.)

 Why do you think the taller ones have bigger Sunflowers? (Maybe some plants are in the shade more than others).

 Why do you think some flowers are taller than others? (There is variation in nature. Each seed has its own genetic information which can be slightly different from any other sunflower seed causing different sunflowers to grow to different heights.  Different amount of sunlight/water/soil nutrients are also possible reasons.)

 

Analyze Data

Try to ask the kids what they noticed after graphing or drawing their pictures.  This is where they can make connections to the data and all their hard work comes together. 

Analyze Data Activities:

Have young kids draw a picture to show that all plants need water, sunlight and soil to grow.

Have older kids graph the data to find trends. 

For older kids: Have them measure the diameter (across the Sunflower) and then use this formula circumference = diameter*π (π=3.14) to find the circumference.  See if it matches.  

Find Trends:

Graph the height and diameter of the Sunflower

You should see a trend

Taller plants have larger Sunflower!

Questions: 

Why do you think the growth curve went up or down?

Why do you think some sunflowers are taller than others? 

Why do you think the taller sunflowers have larger blooms? 

 

Don’t have enough time to wait for flowers to grow. No problem.  I’ve given you the data from this year’s sunflower harvest at the EcoGoingLife house.

I planted 12 seeds, 6 sprouted.

ID number

Height Sunflower Diameter Calculate estimated circumference

1

27”

1”

 

2

58”

5”

 

3

16”

1”

 

4

38.5”

3”

 

5

62”

6”

 
6 25” 2.5”

 

 

Sunflower Seed Snack!

Now that you have sunflowers in full bloom, wait until you can see the characteristic black line down the center of the seed and cut off the Sunflower.  Let the Sunflower dry out and roast the seeds in the oven for 10 min at 300F.  If you want the salty flavor soak the seeds in salt water (1/2 cup salt to 1 cup water) overnight and then roast at 300F until golden brown (25-40 min).

 

 

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