Children can learn plant science in gardens or at local farmers market

Turn your weekly trip to the farmers market into a scavenger hunt and science lesson for children.

Summer is at its height. Fresh vegetables are growing abundantly and stands at the local Farmers’ Markets are filled with fresh produce. Take your children, grand children or any group of children out in the garden, or to the local farmers market. Develop a scavenger hunt and turn picking or create a vegetable selection game that includes a little science lesson.

In your garden or at the farmers market take a plant and show children the different parts of the plant. Plant parts are roots, stems, leaves and flowers. Ask the children what they think the function is for each part. A simple explanation of the plant parts is given in the Michigan State University Extension Science Blast in the Class activity, Build a Salad with Plant Parts. Now have children go through your garden or the farmers market and have them find at least three different colored types of produce, then have them find different shapes of produce. After investigating the colors and shapes, explore with the children if the shapes have seeds inside.

The Build a Salad with Plant Parts activity includes a chart where children can journal and categorize the produce by name, color, shape and presence of seeds. Going by their observations have them make their best guess which plant part it is and what function it has.

Now that children have identified the different plant parts and have selected produce, back at home let children create a salad with the selected produce that they will be able to eat. Be sure to teach and show children how to properly wash their hands, clean and prepare the produce and how to handle a knife safely. Have a discussion with the children such as, what plant parts are they eating and what was the function of the part. Have them also compare flavors.

To help you get started, here are some produce examples:

  • lettuce (leaf)
  • radish (root)
  • carrot (root)
  • celery (stem)
  • broccoli (flower)
  • cucumber (fruit)
  • tomato (fruit)

Enjoy the farmers market / garden scavenger hunt with your children. They will have fun while having the opportunity to spend time outdoors, learn a science lesson, and prepare and eat a healthy, nutritious snack.

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