Byline: Ken Roy
Why use plants in your science laboratory? First of all, they are an excellent way to implement hands-on, inquiry-based science at the middle school level. Second, plants help students better understand the role of plants in the ecosystem and general environment. Third, plants raise student awareness about specific safety issues related to living organisms used in the laboratory.
Safety basics for growing plants
When growing plants in the science laboratory or classroom, there are a number of things that need to be considered for safety's sake. For example: What kind of container? What kind of plant? What kind of soil? What kind of pest control? To ensure a meaningful and safe study of plants, consider the following.
Choose your container based on the potential growth of your plant. The container must provide ample room for root growth and support of the plant. If a small container is selected, there may be the need to transplant the seedling when it gets too large for the initial container. Also, make sure there are drainage holes for excess water to escape. Water, heavy roots, and soil in a container will lead to root rot and bacteria and mold growth. Examples of appropriate containers include plastic or clay commercial pots, cleaned yogurt containers, and egg containers.
The growing medium needs to be designed to provide good drainage and possibly fertilizer. Commercial potting soil is always an option. One word of caution: Some potting soils containing vermiculite also contain low...