Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Trees in the Wind

Growth and Development of Organisms

Heather Shaffery, Heather Shaffery, Chelsea Archie | Published: November 17th, 2022 by K20 Center


In this lesson about the growth and development of organisms, students will gather evidence from research about specific plant phenomena, then use research and in-class investigations to explain the relationship between environmental conditions and plant growth. Activities throughout the lesson will emphasize the use of evidence to support scientific explanations and make predictions. This lesson addresses Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) standard MS-LS1-4. (Funding provided by USDA Project No. 2012-02355 through the National Institute for Food and Agriculture's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, Regional Approaches for Adaptation to and Mitigation of Climate Variability and Change.)

Essential Question(s)

How does the environment influence plant growth and development?



Students observe and generate questions about the cause(s) of unique plant growth phenomena in several environments.


Students choose a plant phenomenon to investigate, construct an initial explanation about how the environment causes the observed phenomenon, and then find evidence through research to support or refine their explanation.


Students share their phenomena with the class and construct explanations for how the local environment influenced the patterns they observed.


Students collect data from an indoor plant investigation to use as further evidence of the impact of environment on plant growth.


Students use their own data to support a revised explanation of the phenomena they investigated. Then they make predictions about the role of genetics in the phenomena they observed.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • How I Know It handout (attached, one per student)

  • I Notice, I Wonder handout (attached, one half-sheet per student)

  • I Used to Think, But Now I Know handout (attached, one per student)

  • Phenomenon Explanation handout (attached, one per student)

  • Plant Growth Observations handout (attached, one half-sheet per student)

  • Explore Research Notes handout (attached, one per student)

  • Internet-connected devices

  • Plant phenomena media

  • Fast-growing plants

  • Materials for growing plants in various conditions


Use that attached Lesson Slides to guide the lesson, beginning with slide 4. Distribute a copy of the I Notice, I Wonder handout to each student. (This document contains two copies of the handout per printed page. You may wish to prepare the handouts ahead of time or have students cut them as they are distributed.) Introduce the I Notice, I Wonder instructional strategy to have students make observations and ask questions about pictures of trees growing sideways rather than straight up as expected. "I notice" statements should be qualitative observations, not inferences. Use the information on slide 5 and work with students to distinguish between the two. "I wonder" questions may or may not be testable or scientific, which is acceptable at this point. Use this opportunity to help students practice asking scientific questions.