If you’re looking for a plant activity so your students can apply learning in plant needs, parts/functions, adaptations, life cycles, cells, photosynthesis, and/or genetics & heredity, this STEM / STEAM challenge is a perfectly engaging way to get the job done joyfully!
Students will design a plant for the fictional planet, Planetopia, that has never been seen before — in real life or imaginations! Students become very attached to their designs, so it’s best to do this one individually. There are ways to make it work with partners/groups described below, but you’ll want enough materials so each student has something to keep at the end.
It doesn’t have to be as complicated as what you see above. With any challenge, the greater variety in materials results in greater variety in the designs. However, you can get away with far fewer materials, or add in your own ideas!
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For each student/group:
- Crayola Model Magic or clay
- Newspaper or tissue paper
- Construction paper
- Pipe cleaners
- Pom poms
- Plastic beads
- Small cups
- Sand paper
- Masking tape
- Hot glue guns
- Cardboard scraps
- Rubber bands
- Single hole punch
- Uncooked noodles, rice, and/or beans
- Design analysis handouts (included in resource)
The video below walks you through all the steps from materials, set-up, modifying the Criteria & Constraints list for your students, measuring results, and lots of extension ideas. If you have any questions after watching, let me know in the comments. If you prefer reading to watching, you’ll find the transcription at the end of the post.
If you’re curious what types of responses you can expect from students when measuring results, or just want to see some plant designs up close, check out the short video below!
Save Some Time!
In the video, you’ll get all the basics and more to run this challenge. In the resource, I’ve put together all the design analysis, extension templates, and given you even more extensions from which to choose. I can tell you, it was a LOT of time and effort put into this labor of love! Why not skip all the heavy lifting and treat yourself to a challenge that’s ready to print & go?! You’re worth it! 🙂
Note: In May 2018, this challenge will join New Earth City, Create-ure, and two others in a brand new Planetopia Project STEM Challenge Bundle. These resources are available by clicking the images above. From there, you can purchase on site, or follow links to TpT, if that is your preference.
Hi. I’m Kerry from Feel Good Teaching and today is the very best day of the week. STEM Challenge Day.
We’ve a brand new one. Planetopia Plants, and this is part of the growing Planetopia Project series in which students for the fictional planet of Planetopia. I’ll tell you all about it right after we check out the materials and the STEM Challenge Cycle.
This is the STEM Challenge Cycle you should follow for every challenge. I’ve defined each step in another video. You’ll find a link to that video in the description below.
In this challenge, students are going to be designing a plant that no one has ever seem before, either in reality or even in stories or myths. Students do become very attached to their designs for this challenge, so it is best to let every student design his or her own. But there are still some options if you want them to work collaboratively, either in partners or groups.
If working in partners, students can design different stages of the plant’s life cycle, or one student can take on the dominant traits of the plant, whereas the other can design for recessive traits.
If you want students to work in groups, you can have them first determine different climates or biomes of Planetopia. Then, have each student in the group design something perfectly suited for each climate.
There are four basic criteria for this challenge. The plants must have a way to get energy: protection from weather or climate, protection from animals, either getting eaten or trampled by them, and a way to reproduce. You’re going to want to encourage students to use their imagination. This is a fictional planet, so these plants don’t have to operate in the same way that earth’s plants do.
The constraints of the challenge are time, materials, and that the plant has features that no one has ever seen before. You might also choose to add in a size constraint so you don’t end up with rather large designs like this one, especially if you teach multiple classes. You might be in a position where need to acc display some of the designs on bulletin boards, you’ll need to keep them smaller and lighter.
If you want to increase the difficulty, you can have student design to a particular need or threat. For example, something to protect from leaf eating beetles or a flower that allow flying insects to reach it but not crawling insects.
You can also have students create cross sections of the different parts of the plants to show them in greater detail. If you are having students work in groups, have them create one unifying feature or adaptation for their plants and at least one thing that makes each plant unique.
To measure results, you can either have students simply say yes or not that each criterion was met, or you can ask them to provide a little bit of additional detail. Don’t worry is student explanations are rather outlandish or unrealistic, or very different from earth plants, because these designs are going to serve as a foundation for making connections with plant science on earth, and comparing and contrasting.
As always I have plenty of extension ideas for this challenge. You can have students create booklets or file folders about their Planetopia plants. They can include basic details like what the actual size would be, the needs of the plant, special features, adaptations, life cycles, detail field notes, genetics. Of course then you can move right into plant science on earth.
Plant parts and their functions, plant needs, photosynthesis, ecosystems, cell biology, unusual plants and their adaptations, the many ways we use plants for building materials and medicines And of course, pollination and plant reproduction.
If you want to tie in some ELA and some Art, you could have students go on a plant walk around the school Have them take photographs or detailed field notes, carefully observing the physical properties of the plants that they see. Then have them bring that back to the classroom and use it to write poetry, descriptive paragraphs, or maybe create paintings or sketches, perhaps in the style of Andy Warhol?
You can also have student conduct experiments about plants, or to conduct some plant inquiry.
You’re ready to do Planetopia Plants in your class on your own but as always, this resource is full of goodness. You are definitely going to want to check it out. It’s going to save you a ton of time.
This resource contains everything you need to guide your students through the Planetopia Plants Challenge, including modifications for use with second through eighth graders.
You’ll still need to gather materials of course, but the rest has been done for you. You’ll get aligned NextGen Science Standards, links to my STEM Challenge how to videos, to help you get the most from each challenge and the Planetopia Plant’s materials list.
In teacher tips you’ll find premise and setup, how to increase or decrease difficulties through the criteria and constraints list, measuring results, and cross correct their extension suggestions.
You’ll find an editable criteria and constraints list, so you can tailor the challenge to your students. For student handout there are two versions. Four page, expanded room for response for younger students, and a two page, condensed space paper saver version.
You’ll also find a set of group discussion questions. In the extension handouts you’ll find templates to make plant booklets or folders focusing on plant basics, features and adaptations, life cycles, and genetics and heredity.
You’ll find handouts for studying plant parts and functions, cell, photosynthesis, plant inquiry, and more including math extension and process flow templates.
This resource is available individually and as part of the discounted Make a STEM Challenge Bundle. Coming in late Spring 2018, it will also be part of a new discounted Planet opia Bundle.
Digital paperless versions for use with Google Slides are coming soon. Links can be found in the description below the video.
I’ve included additional details and video content about this resource on my blog. I have that linked below.
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As always, I hope your week has been packed with Feel Good Teaching moments.
See you next time.