Target Grade Level / Age Range:



30 minutes, plus 10 minutes every day for 5 days to 2 weeks


Students will observe corn and soybean seeds as they germinate and compare how they are similar and different.  


  • Corn and Soybean seeds
  • Jewelry sized re-sealable bags, hole punched above the seal
  • Soaked Jelly BeadZ or damp cotton balls
  • Yarn
  • Potting Soil (optional)
  • Small pots or cups (optional)

Suggested Companion Resources


  • Seed – Small parts produced by plants from which new plants grow.  They lie dormant until they receive the things they need to germinate – water and warmth.   
  • Germination – The process of a plant emerging from a seed and beginning to grow.  Germination happens inside a seed. 
  • Sprout – A plant that has just formed leaves and roots, or the action of a seed emerging from the soil.
  • Leaves –  Part of the plant needed to convert sunlight to energy for the plant through photosynthesis. Leaves have veins in them that move nutrients and water.  
  • Stem  –  Plant part that transports water and nutrients from the roots to the rest of the leaves
  • Roots –  Plant part, usually found below ground, that absorbs water and nutrients.

Background – Agricultural Connections

Farmers in Iowa are the country’s biggest producers of corn and soybeans. These plants germinate in the ground the same way they do in the seed germination necklaces. Farmers care for them from planting until harvest. Corn and soybeans are found in many items that we use every day, including plastics, corn chips, and even cake! They can also be feed to livestock and made into biofuels.   

Corn and soybean plants are very different.  Corn plants are monocots and soybeans are dicots.  Monocots and dicot seeds are structurally different, and they look different as they germinate.   Although it is not necessary to introduce the terms monocot and dicot in this lesson, it is import for students to begin understanding how plants and the way they grow are similar and different.  Observing corn and soybeans seeds germinate is a great way to being comparing plants.

Plants can be separated, or classified, into different categories.  Classification is used to identify and organize different types of plants in the world.  Monocots (corn) and Dicots (soybeans) are two different categories of plants. 

Below are some definitions that may be helpful to the teacher, but not necessary to introduce to lower elementary students.

  • Cotyledon – Part of the embryo within a seed. It provides nutrients (food) for the germinating plant.  The cotyledon is the part of the seed that will grow into the first leaves. 
  • Monocot – A flowering plant with a seed that has one cotyledon.  Corn, grass, and lilies, and onions are examples of monocots.  The leaves of monocot plants have veins that run up and down and are parallel to each other.  Monocot flower parts (petals, sepals, and stamens) of dicot plants come in multiples of three.
  • Dicot – A flowering plant with a seed that has two cotyledons.  Soybeans, other beans, and most trees and flowers are dicots.  Dicot leaves have veins that are scattered or netted. Flower parts of dicot plants come in multiples of four or five.

Interest Approach or Motivator

Show students corn and soybean seeds.  Ask them:

  • What do they have in common? 
  • How are they different?
  • What do seeds need to grow?


  1. Place moistened JellyBeadZ, soil moist, or cotton ball, into the hole-punched jewelry sized bag.  If using a cotton ball, squeeze out excess water before putting it in the bag.   If using JellyBeadz, you can have different colors represent each plant need (water, sun, air, soil, space, nutrients).
  2. Push one corn and one soybean seed into the bag.
  3. Seal the bag and run yarn through the hole to create a necklace.
  4. Ask students to wear their bags around their necks or place them in a warm place and observe them every day. 
    1. Optional: Divide the class into groups to compare different temperature and light conditions (Inside shirt, outside shirt, refrigerator, desk drawer, sunny window, outside, etc.)
  5. During the observation period, ask students to record daily journal entries using full sentences and good grammar to describe what they see. 
  6. If you would like to continue the experiment, transplant the germinated seeds into a cups of soil.  Watch them continue to grow and compare the leaves and roots of corn and soybean plants.
  7. After the seeds have sprouted in the bags or they have developed leaves after transplanting, ask students to draw the parts of corn and soybeans seeds and/or plants.  If you have transplanted the seeds into pots, carefully remove the plants from the soil and compare the roots of the corn and soybean plants.
  8. After the observation period is complete, have students write a reflection explaining what they witnessed, being sure to include the differences and similarities between the corn and soybean seeds as they germinated and begin to grow.   

Did you know? (Ag facts)

  • Iowa is the country’s largest producer of corn and soybeans.  Both crops are planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. 
  • Most of the corn grown in Iowa is dent corn, also called field corn.  Dent corn is fed to animals, made into ethanol, and used to make foods like corn chips, cereal, corn bread, and candy. 
  • Soybeans are used to feed livestock, make biodiesel, and processed into many food and household products.


Cindy Hall

Kelsey Faivre

Organization Affiliation

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation

Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • T2.K-2.a.  Explain how farmers/ranchers work with the lifecycle of plants and animals (planting/breeding) to harvest a crop.
  • T2.K-2.b.  Identify the importance of natural resources (e.g., sun, soil, water, minerals) in farming.
  • T5.K-2.d. Identify plants and animals grown or raised locally that are used for food, clothing, shelter, and landscapes.

Iowa Core Standards

  • Science:
    • K-LS1-1. Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.
    • K-ESS3-1. Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants or animals (including
    • 1-LS3-1. Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not
    • exactly like, their parents.
    • humans) and the places they live.
    • 2-LS2-1. Plan and conduct an investigation to determine if plants need sunlight and water to grow.
    • 2-LS4-1. Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.
  • English Language Arts:
    • W.K.2.  Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.
    • W.K.3.  Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to narrate a single event or several loosely linked events, tell about the events in the order in which they occurred, and provide a reaction to what happened.
    • W.1.2.  Write informative/explanatory texts in which they name a topic, supply some facts about the topic, and provide some sense of closure.
    • W.1.3.  Write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide some sense of closure.  
    • W.2.2.  Write informative/explanatory texts in which they introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points, and provide a concluding statement or section.
    • W.2.3.  Write narratives in which they recount a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure.
    • SL.K-2.1  Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
    • SL.K-2.3.  Ask and answer questions…

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