The Plant Race Science Lesson Plan March 04 2010

In honor of the Spring growth I'm starting to see, here's an easy science lesson that helps kids discover how organic material helps plants grow. The particular fertilizer used in this elementary science experiment is hundreds of years old, and comes from Squanto, the Native American who helped the Pilgrims.

Squanto made it possible for the Pilgrims to survive in the New World. He lived with them for the remainder of his life after they arrived, and helped maintain peace between them and the Wampanoag tribe.

Most important, Squanto taught the Pilgrims all about food native to their area, especially how to grow it! Here is a science experiment you can complete with your students to determine if Squanto's advice was effective.


  • small plant pots or plastic cups
  • soil
  • seeds (corn or bean seeds)
  • fish emulsion fertilizer (you can get this at nurseries or possibly stores like Lowe's or Home Depot. Read the instructions carefully before purchasing; it would be ideal to get a brand that doesn't have an odor)
  • water
  • The Plant Race Observation Chart, one per student

Question & Hypothesis

I like to lead my kids through the scientific process, and there's room on the The Plant Race Observation Chart to fill out each section. The question needs to be some form of  Will the fertilized plant grow faster? and the hypothesis needs to state which plant they think will grow faster - the one with Squanto's fertilizer or the one without. You could also add a second element, which is how much faster will the plant grow? It's essentially a race between the fertilized and unfertilized plants!


  • Students can work in partners to save on materials. They need to have two cups, one labeled A and one labled B.
  • Partnered students fill the cups with soil and plant the seeds according to package directions.
  • Partnered students water their two plants, adding fish emulsion to the cup labeled A.
  • Students continue to monitor and water plants daily, writing any observations on the  , and adding fish emulsion ONLY to the cup labeled A whenever they water their plants.


The Plant Race Observation Chart has 20 total squares for students to sketch and write down any growth they observe. As the plants grow taller, it would be a good idea for students to measure the plants for another way to see if the fertilized plants are growing faster.


Have your students summarize the results of their experiment with Squanto's fertilizer. You may need to lead them through this part.


Students look back on their Question and Hypothesis and draw a conclusion that answers both.

When your done with this experiment, there should be enough plants for each student to take one home - although, one half will be better fertilized than the other!