Students will be introduced to the study of plants in this lesson. First they will sprout bean seeds on moistened paper towels, then make drawings and measurements of their growth. They will watch time-lapse videos that illustrate a plant's major growth stages. Another clip covers fruits and asks students to consider how their seeds are spread. They will gather seeds by walking outside with an old sock over one of their shoes, then plant their sock to observe the resulting plants.
In this sequence of observations, students will observe the life cycles of butterflies, darkling beetles, preying mantises, and grasshoppers to compare and contrast complete metamorphosis (butterflies and darkling beetles) and incomplete metamorphosis (preying mantis, grasshoppers, termites).
This sequence is a long-term investigation. The initial cycle requires a 45-60 minute period to introduce and model journal entries, but after that it only requires 5-10 minutes per day to make observations. Research can be done throughout the cycle at a Reading center. At the conclusion of each cycle, another 45 minute session is needed for wrap-up and assessment.
SPECIAL NOTE: To fully implement this benchmark, the teacher should repeat this basic investigation format with plants. Beans and daisies work well as flowering plants and allow the students to proceed through the entire life cycle (seed, seedling, adult, back to the seed stage). This can be done in conjunction with benchmark SC.4.L.16.1: Identify processes of sexual reproduction in flowering plants, including pollination, fertilization (seed dispersal), and germination. For non-flowering, seed-bearing plants (conifers), you can't go through an entire life cycle within the classroom. However, this website has an image that goes through the life cycle of a conifer: