Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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The Great Bean Bag Adventure

During the course of this workshop series, we conduct SIX different experiments designed to test ideas about what seeds need in order to sprout. Each experiment focuses on a different variable …

  • Experiment ONE focuses on "the basics"
    – water, light, soil, and air
  • Experiment TWO goes "beyond the basics"
    – water AND either light, soil, or air
  • Experiment THREE considers unusual liquids
    – dish soap, vinegar, baby oil, salt water, sugar water
  • Experiment FOUR looks at temperature
    – freezer, refrigerator, and heating pad
  • Experiment FIVE involves removal of seed parts
    – seed coat, seed leaves, embryonic plant
  • Experiment SIX compares different types of seeds
    – navy, kidney, corn, pumpkin, and sunflower

These experiments arose questions about the conditions that cause a seed to sprout. During the workshop broadcasts, our hosts will share data and observations for each experiment, and will discuss how our results compared to original predictions. They will also consider ways in which each workshop topic can be applied to the experiment at hand.

As a workshop participant, you can get involved in the Adventure in a number of different ways. You can "follow along" with our hosts and do one or more of the experiments they do. Or, you can ASK YOUR OWN QUESTIONS and DESIGN APPROPRIATE EXPERIMENTS to TEST YOUR IDEAS. At your site, you can choose to have individuals, pairs, small groups, or the whole group conduct the same or different experiments. And, you can register any and all of your experiments on our Web site, and report your methods and your results for other participants to see and share.

Below is a description of the materials that we use and the procedures that we follow in conducting our experiments. In addition, specific instructions for each of the six experiments are given in the support materials for the workshops in which the experiments will be featured (Experiments ONE through SIX will be featured, consecutively, in Workshops 3 through 8.) You are welcome to modify the design of these experiments. In fact, we encourage you to explore alternate materials and methods, and to formulate your own questions and design new and different experiments. Although this will make comparisons to our results difficult, it will bolster the variety and depth of our shared online Adventure.


All of our experiments focus on ONE VARIABLE and at least FOUR CONDITIONS (including a control) associated with that variable.

All six experiments require the same basic materials:

  • Quart-sized plastic baggies (vegetable baggies with air holes work best)
  • Paper towels
  • Seeds
  • Something with which to prop the baggies open (optional)

For each individual condition, we use:

  • 1 baggie
  • 2 paper towels
  • 3 small lima beans (soaked overnight in water)

Each experiment also calls for additional materials associated with the particular condition. These materials are provided in the support materials for the corresponding workshop.


To prepare the baggies, we suggest the following:

  1. Take two paper towels and fold them together to provide several layers of thickness. (The paper towels are folded so that they lie flat inside the baggie.)
  2. Add enough water to the baggie to thoroughly wet the paper towel, and then pour out the excess water. (Not all conditions require water.)
  3. Carefully place three previously-soaked lima beans inside the baggie, on top of the paper towels, so that they are aligned horizontally and in the same direction across the center of the baggie.
  4. Store the baggies on a flat surface. (It helps to prop the baggies open so that the plastic is not touching the beans, and the air can circulate.)

Some of the experiments involve variations on these basic steps. Details are provided in the support materials for the corresponding workshop.

Collecting Data

Regardless of the experiment(s) you choose to do, each experiment should run for a minimum of 7 days, and a maximum of 14 days. During this period, data should be collected at least 5 times, including:

DAY 1 (after one day)
DAY 2 (after two days)
DAY 3 (after three days)
DAY 7 (after seven days)
[Note: Day 0 is the day you start your experiment]

In the workshop broadcasts, our hosts will be sharing our results based on the data collected from DAY 7 of each experiment.

You should collect 3 types of data for each bean in each baggie:

  1. Length of root (in mm)
  2. Length of shoot (in mm)
  3. Description of color, texture, smell, etc. (also note problems such as rotting and mold)

We recorded our data in a table similar to this one.

Transforming Data

After the data has been collected and observations have been made, it is necessary to transform the raw data into a summary of results. We do this by constructing two different types of graphs.

The first graph (Graph A) represents the mean (one measure of average) length of root and shoot on different days for beans in a given condition. This allows us to compare beans exposed to a specific condition over several days.

The second graph (Graph B) represents the mean length of root and shoot on a specific day for beans exposed to different conditions. This allows us to compare how different conditions are affecting the beans on any one day.

You can use Graphs A and B as models for data transformation.

Interpreting Data

After the data has been transformed, it can then be interpreted: What do these results mean? We use the following questions to guide our interpretation of the data:

For beans exposed to a given condition (Graph A)

  • On any specific day, how many beans sprouted?
  • For those that sprouted, on what day did they sprout?
  • How did the mean root length change through time?
  • How did the mean shoot length change through time?
  • Overall, how does this condition affect bean sprouting and early growth?

For beans exposed to different conditions (Graph B)

  • For each condition on a specific day, how many beans sprouted?
  • On a specific day, how did mean root length compare for beans in different conditions?
  • On a specific day, how did mean shoot length compare for beans in different conditions?
  • Overall, how do different conditions affect bean sprouting and early growth?

Building Conclusions

After we interpret our data, we then compare what we have learned to our original hypothesis. You can do the same, by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do my results support or refute my hypothesis?
  • Based on my results, how do I answer my original question?
  • Were there any sources of error present? Anything that may have had an unintended effect on my experiment?
  • How could I improve upon my experimental design?
  • What new questions do I have?


If you have access to the Web, we encourage you to participate in the Adventure online at: http://www.learner.org/workshops/nextmove/bean

You are free to explore the experiments and join in on the discussion at any time. However, to share your own experiment(s) online, you will need to do the following:

  1. Obtain a SITE LOGIN NAME and SITE PASSWORD. These should have been sent to your Site Leader via email. If you don't know your password or have misplaced it, contact us and we'll help you out.
  2. Create a PARTICIPANT PROFILE. Once you've logged in for the first time, you can create your own Login and Password that are easy for you to remember. To do so, simply follow the instructions on the Web site. You will be asked enter basic personal information (this is optional) such as your name, school, grade taught, etc., to which other participants can refer if they are interested in your experiment. If you have an email address, be sure to include it so that other teachers can get in touch with you!
  3. Create an EXPERIMENT PROFILE. This is where you (or you and your partner, or you and you site) will describe in detail your predictions, procedures, results, and conclusions for each experiment that you conduct. Other participants will be able to look at your experiments and even graph your data. And of course, you can look at their experiments, too.

You can go back to your Participant Profile and/or your Experiment Profile to make changes at any time. You'll be going back to your Experiment Profile throughout the series to add your data, conclusions, and results.

Things you can do online:


The Web site will generate graphs of your data in the same two formats that we constructed (seeds exposed to a given condition across days, and seeds exposed to different conditions on a given day).


You can get ideas from other teachers by looking at their experiments and procedures. You can even see their results and graph their data.


Look through the list of experiments to find a person or group that is conducting an experiment similar to your own. If the individual or group has email, you may want to get in touch with them and set up "experiment pen pals" for the duration of the workshop series


If you can find a person or group that is conducting an experiment similar to your own, you can compare your results by printing out graphs of their data, and analyzing it against your own graphs. Were your procedures similar? How did your procedures affect your results?


All six of our experiments are profiled on the Web site. You can read our procedures, predictions, and conclusions; graph our results; and look at photographs of their seeds on various days of each experiment.


Talk to other teachers about their experiments. Learn alternative methods. Find out what worked and what didn't. Discuss ways you can do seed experiments in your own classrooms. Talk about the Adventure in relation to the workshop topics.


Series Overview
Workshop Synopses
About the Contributors
Workshop Components
More Workshop Components
Helpful Hints for Successful Site Investigations
The Great Bean Bag Adventure
Invitation to Interact
Featured Teachers:
–  Classroom Clips
–  Conversations
Workshop 1
Workshop 2
Workshop 3
Workshop 4
Workshop 5
Workshop 6
Workshop 7
Workshop 8
Suggested Teaching Resources


Workshop Materials Home | Next Move Home


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