Search form

Supermarket Sprouts


You and Your Students!

Script By

Vicki Cobb, Education World Science Editor


Grow baby plants from all kinds of supermarket seeds.


Plants, Seeds, Nutrition

Props Required

  • seeds from the supermarket (some examples include popcorn, birdseed, dill seed, caraway seed, dried peas, dried beans, poppy seed, parrot food, whole (not roasted) peanuts
  • paper towels
  • small plastic containers and lids from the supermarket deli department (about 4 inches in diameter)
  • labels
  • pen
  • water

Setting the Scene (Background)

Alfalfa and Chinese bean sprouts are not the only baby plants you can find at the supermarket. Prowl up and down the supermarket aisles on a search for seeds and you’ll be surprised at how many you find! I found more than thirty different kinds and tried sprouting them all for fun.

Stage Direction

This project takes several days. It’s a great hands-on project for students.

The Plot

Show-Biz Science is scripted by popular children's book writer Vicki Cobb. Click to learn more about Vicki or to read a brief synopsis of her philosophy of teaching science.

Visit our archive of archive of Show-Biz Science Activities. Watch for a new activity each week. Then chat with Vicki -- share your feedback and ask your questions about teaching science -- on our special Showbiz-Science message board.

Be sure to visit Vicki's Kids' Science Page for more great science fun, a complete list of her books, and information about how you can invite Vicki to come to your school. And don't miss her library of science videos too. Or visit Vicki and other great authors of nonfiction for children at the INK Think Tank.

Act I

If one of your sources of seeds is a mixture, such as parrot food, read the label to see what kinds of seeds are in the mix. Have students sort and/or categorize the seeds into groups. They should save and label a seed from each group as a reference.

Fold a paper towel in quarters. Moisten it thoroughly with water. It should be soaked through, but not dripping wet. Place the paper towel so it fits in the bottom of a plastic deli container.

Put several seeds on the paper towel. Cover the seeds with another folded and moistened paper towel. Put the lid on the container. Record on a label the source of the seeds and the type of seed, if known. Put the label on the container.

Act II

Check your seeds every day. (If the paper towel dries out, moisten it again.) Some seeds will start sprouting sooner than others. Which seeds started sprouting first? The small ones? The large ones? Does whichever seeds sprout first tell you about the amount of water that must be absorbed before a seed will sprout?

By day five, many of my seeds were going strong. Yours should be too. As the seeds sprout, look carefully at them. Use a magnifying glass to get an even better look. The first thing that starts growing is the seed root. As it gets longer, tiny rootlets sprout off the main root. They show up as white fuzz. The seed leaf, called a cotyledon, appears next.

  • Some plants have only one seed leaf; they are called monocotyledons (monocots for short). Most birdseed, wheat, corn, and grasses are monocots.
  • Other plants -- such as beans, peas, and peanuts -- have two seed leaves and are called dicotyledons (dicots, for short).

In which direction do the seed roots grow and in which direction do the seed leaves grow? It's awesome how plants know the difference between up and down!

On day five, I turned the dish growing the birdseed upside-down. The results by the next day were amazing!

Did any of your spice seeds sprout? (Mine didn't.) I wonder why. Perhaps spice producers somehow kill the seeds when they process them? What do you think?

The End

Seeds contain the nutrients needed for a baby plant to get started. Those nutrients also make seeds good to eat. Civilization is possible because seeds nutritious; also, they can be stored without spoiling as a hedge against famine.

You might want to connect this activity to your social studies curriculum. Investigate the history of corn, beans, rice, and wheat; whole societies developed around those crops!

See more experiments with seeds in See for Yourself: More than 100 Experiments for Science Fairs and Projects by Vicki Cobb.

Article By Vicki Cobb
Education World®
Copyright © 2004 Education World