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STEM Activities

STEM Activity: Carving Out Space to Grow

The type of attentiveness and patience it takes to care for plants can have profound effects on the world. In this fun activity, try out your green thumb by creating a DIY mini greenhouse and growing a mini bean or pea plant in a cup with soil. You can study how your plant grows through stages as you learn about National Inventors Hall of Fame® Inductee George Washington Carver, the life-enhancing inventor who positively impacted how foods are grown, used and enjoyed.


Materials Needed

  • Cup
  • Dried beans or peas
  • Napkin or paper towel
  • Paper
  • Pens or pencils
  • Recyclables
  • Soil (seed starter, potting soil or dirt)
  • Water


Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Research and explore the life of George Washington Carver, the agricultural chemist who developed new methods of planting crops and discovered hundreds of new uses for crops like peanuts and sweet potatoes.
  2. Using your research as motivation, design your own mini greenhouse space by:
    • Choosing a sunny area, like a windowsill
    • Looking through your recycling bin for items to house your plant, like a milk jug, an egg carton or a plastic container
  3. Select your choice of beans or peas to grow.
  4. Fold a napkin or piece of paper towel into a square shape so that it will fit into a cup, then soak the napkin or paper towel in water.
  5. Wrap a few dry beans or peas in the wet paper and let them soak until you start to see roots growing out of the paper towel. (This could take a few days.)
  6. After roots have begun to grow, fill your chosen recyclable container or a small cup three-quarters of the way with soil.
  7. Remove the beans or peas from the napkin and place them with their roots facing upward in your container.
  8. Completely cover the beans with additional soil and place the container in the warm, well-lit area you had selected.
  1. Add water to the soil periodically over the course of about three days. Using a small spray bottle can be a fun and easy way to water plants!
  2. Find inspiration in Carver, who often illustrated the plants he worked with, and draw a sketch of your sprouting seeds.
  3. Watch your plant sprout and start dreaming up your next green project!


What Are We Discovering?

Hall of Famer George Washington Carver overcame great personal hardship to become a world-famous chemist whose discoveries revolutionized agriculture. His research would prove life-changing for farmers whose cotton crops drained the soil of its nutrients as he discovered that peanuts and sweet potatoes could reintroduce nitrogen, an element essential to plant growth, back into the ground. As Carver demonstrated, the world can be changed through perseverance and care. The biggest ideas can grow from the smallest seeds, so keep planting!


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