Target Grade Level / Age Range:

First Grade         


Five 30-minute sessions (spread out over stages of soybean seed growth)


Students will learn about the growth and development stages of soybeans, look at different ways soybeans are used, and make a picture book demonstrating the life cycle of a soybean.


  • Lesson 1:  Planting the soybean seed
    • Soybean Photos.pptx
    • Chart tablet
    • A Seed in Need: A First Look at the Plant Cycle by Sam Godwin
    • Clear cups for planting soybean seeds
    • Potting soil
    • Soybean seeds
    • Water (spray water bottles)
    • Science journals
    • Blank soybean stages book (plain paper)
    • To make a small, 8-page book from one sheet of paper, follow these instructions:
  • Lesson 2:  Observing and recording soybean growth (after germination)
  • Lesson 3:  Observing and recording soybean growth (during seedling stage)
    • Soybean Photos.pptx
    • Sadie’s Seed Adventure:  Learning About Seeds by Tim Dybvik
    • Soybean plants (planted in lesson 1)
    • Science journals
    • “Soybean Growing Stages” book (made in lesson 1)
  • Lesson 4:  Discussing and recording soybean growth (adult plant stage)
    • Soybean Photos.pptx
    • Soybean plants (planted in lesson 1)
    • Soybeans A to Z by Susan Anderson and JoAnne Buggey
    • Science journals
    • “Soybean Growing Stages” book (made in lesson 1)
  • Lesson 5:  Uses for Soybeans and review growing stages
    • Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic by Ginnie Lo and Beth Lo
    • Soybean Photos.pptx
    • Science journals        
    • “Soybean Growing Stages” book (made in lesson 1)

    Suggested Companion Resources:


    1. Life cycle—stages of a living thing from the beginning of its life to its death; how a living thing grows and changes during its life
    2. Seed coat—cover on the seed; it protects the seed
    3. Embryo—baby plant hiding between the seed leaves
    4. Germination— the stage in the life cycle of a plant when the seeds first begin to grow.
    5. Cotyledon—seed leaves that hold the food the new plant needs to grow; stored food for the new plant
    6. Seedling—baby plant
    7. Adult plant—mature, full size plant ready to blossom and produce new seeds
    8. Product—something produced by a natural process.

    Background – Agricultural Connections:

    • This lesson plan follows the growth and development of a soybean plant, as well as the uses of soybeans.
      • Each of the five lessons will touch on a basic growth stage, include a book about soybeans, and will include entries in a science journal, as well as creating a small book about soybean growth stages.
        • This lesson will follow the basic stages of planting, germination, seedling, and adult plant.
          • While timing of each lesson can be flexed to fit the schedule of the classroom, about one week in between lessons should work well enough for the development stages.
          • Watering schedules are not worked into the lesson plans, so do be sure to water the plants as necessary.
        • Included in the materials above are the materials used in each individual lesson.
        • The soybean growth stages book outlined in this lesson takes only a pair of scissors and a plain sheet of paper. However, if you prefer different kinds of blank books, this activity can change depending on those preferences. The one-sheet type book is very cost effective, but may need a practice-run before it is tried with young ones in the classroom.
        • The PowerPoint includes all of the photos referenced throughout the lesson. Photos can be added or removed as necessary, but it should be adequate as is.
      • In agronomy, there are many more stages. They are VE, VC, V1-V( n), and R1-R8.
        • VE means the seedling has emerged from the soil.
        • VC means the first two unifoliate (single) leaves have completely unfurled.
        • V1 means the first trifoliate (group of three) leaves have completely unfurled
          • This system continues for each trifoliate leaf set.
        • R1 means the plant is beginning to bloom. This marks the beginning of the reproductive stage of plant development, hence the R instead of the V (for vegetative growth).
        • R2 means the plant is in full bloom.
        • R3 means the plant is beginning to grow pods.
        • R4 means the plant has grown all pods.
        • R5 means the plant is beginning to fill its seeds.
        • R6 means the seeds are now full.
        • R7 means it is beginning maturity, or is starting to turn brown.
        • R8 means the plant is fully mature and will soon be ready to harvest.
      • These stages help scientists and agronomists determine threats to the plant’s health, and help farmers create the best environment for their plants.
        • When looking at the plant in each of the designated stages, show photos from the attached document and ask students about what stage the plant might be in. Talk with students about the career opportunities in plant science, and people can work with these plants and help farmers grow them to the best of their ability.
    • The soybean plant is a broadleaf, leguminous crop.
      • The bushy, green plant is related to clover, peas, and alfalfa.
      • Soybeans are grown throughout the United States but the Midwest climate and soil present ideal conditions for growing soybeans.
      • It commonly takes a soybean seed about two days to germinate. The plant doesn’t emerge from the ground until about one week after planting. Each plant can produce up to 80 pods and about 160-200 seeds per plant. Each pod contains 2-4 pea-sized beans that are high in protein and oil.
      • Soybeans are the only vegetable to have ‘complete’ protein. Complete protein means all eight amino acids for human health are present.
      • Soybeans are used for animal food, to make food products for humans, and to make biofuel.
      • More uses for soybeans can be found here:

    Interest Approach or Motivator:

    • Ask students if they have ever seen a soybean or soybean plant. How does a soybean grow? Record student responses on a chart tablet.
    • Tell students: We are going to learn about the life cycle of a soybean or its growing stages, what different things are made from soybeans, and make a book to show how a soybean seed becomes a plant. Show students a map of where soybeans are grown in the United States.


    Lesson 1:  Planting the soybean seed

    1. Show students pictures of soybean growing stages.
    2. Read A Seed in Need: A First Look at the Plant Cycle by Sam Godwin
    3. Show students some soybean seeds.
    4. Refer to their responses how a soybean grows (from the interest approach) and tell them:  We are going to plant, watch, and record how our own soybean plant grows.
    5. Distribute clear plastic cups. Tell students to write their name on their cup using a marker.
    6. Gather students to the soil station to begin planting their soybean. Model how much potting soil to put in cup.
      1. Have soil in a tub or box lined with a plastic garbage bag in open area of classroom. Using a tarp or being stationed over tile might work best.
      2. Students could use their cup to scoop out soil, or spoons or small trowels could be used.
    7. Give each student two soybean seeds and model how to plant.
      1. Use eraser end of pencil to make a hole about half way to bottom of soil near side of plastic cup (so students will be able to watch germination process), drop in seed, and cover gently.
      2. Repeat with other seed.
    8. Have students draw picture of planted seed in science journal and write what about this growing stage.
    9. Then, help students organize the cups in a sunny area, potentially a windowsill.
      1. Ask students why they need to pay attention to where they let their soybeans grow.
      2. Talk about what seeds need to germinate and what plants need to grow.
    10. Once plants have been set in a good location, ask for a couple (2-5) volunteers to help water the plants. Give the volunteers a spray bottle and instruct them to give each cup 2-3 good sprays.
    11. Gather students back at their seats, and introduce them to the soybean growing stages book they will be making.
      1. Give each student one sheet of plain paper. Tell them to fold it in half hotdog style, then unfold and fold in half hamburger way.
      2. The paper should have two perpendicular creases in it. Then, have students take the outside edges and fold them to meet the hamburger crease. This will create three equidistant creases up and down when the paper is landscape.
      3. Next, the paper will need to be cut on the hotdog crease in between the first and third creases. This will create a slit so the book can take shape.
      4. Lastly, help students fold the paper again along the hotdog crease, so the slid will be at the top. Help students push the two ends of the slit together, so four pages seem to form. Then, fold along the same creases to make the pages face the same direction and form a book!
      5. Instructions with pictures:
    12. Tell students to use the cover of their book to write “Soybean Growing Stages” and to draw a small picture. Tell students to write their name on the back cover. Inside the front cover (page 1), they will write or draw something they learned about planting soybeans.
    13. Tell students to store their book in a safe place to work on more later.

    Lesson 2:  Observing and recording soybean growth (after germination)

    1. Tell students to fetch their cup and bring it back to their desk (carefully!). Ask them what they notice about their seeds. Can they see the seeds? Are they doing anything cool? Can anyone see sprouts, or are they emerging from the soil yet?
    2. Ask students where the roots are. What do roots do? Why are they important?
    3. Ask students where the stem of the plant is. What does the stem do? Why might that be important?
    4. Show students a picture of a germinated soybean seed. (All pictures are available in the accompanying PowerPoint document.)
    5. Watch Life Cycle of a Plant (YouTube) and [Time-Lapse] Mung Bean Germination
      1. Life cycle:
      2. Germination:
    6. Read Soybeans in the Story of Agriculture by Susan Anderson and JoAnne Buggey
      1. Talk about what the students learned from the book. Did the book talk about the stage that their plants are in right now?
    7. Have students observe their soybean plant and draw a picture of sprouted seed in science journal. Talk about the germination stage and have students write about germination in their journals.
    8. Tell students to take out their Growing Stages books. Tell them to use page 2 to write and draw what soybean germination is like and what the seed needs.
    9. When students are done writing, tell them to store their journals and books until next time.

    Lesson 3:  Observing and recording soybean growth (during seedling stage)

    1. Start class by reading Sadie’s Seed Adventure:  Learning About Seeds by Tim Dybvik
      1. Other books about seeds and seedlings would be an acceptable alternative.
    2. Have students bring their seedlings to their desks to observe them. What differences do they see from last time?
    3. Show students pictures of a soybean seedling. Talk about how the photos compare to the plants in class. What structures do the students notice? How have the leaves changed? Can they see root development?
    4. Have students observe their soybean plant and draw a picture of the soybean seedling in their science journal and write about this growing stage.
    5. In students’ Growing Stages books, have them use page 3 to draw and write about soybean seedlings.
    6. When the students are finished, instruct them to put away their materials until next time.

    Note: If the class wants to grow their own soybean plant to adult stage, a couple seedlings should be replanted into larger containers at this time. A large bucket or planter could be a good option. A larger container will allow the plant more space to grow a root system large enough to support an adult plant.

    Lesson 4:  Discussing and recording soybean growth (adult plant stage)

    1. Read Soybeans A to Z by Susan Anderson and JoAnne Buggey
      1. Talk about what happened in the book. What facts did they learn about soybeans? Soybean development?
    2. Bring out the adult soybean plant(s). Ask students what they notice about this plant. How large is it? Are the leaves smooth or hairy? Are there flowers yet? Are there pods?
      1. If an adult soybean plant is not possible or available, pull up photos of an adult plant and talk through the details of the adult plant as much as possible.
    3. Show students pictures of an adult soybean plant and of the growing stages.
      1. Use one of the development stages photos and ask students what stage they think their plant is
    4. Ask students why scientists, agronomists, and farmers might need to know about development stages. Help students come to the conclusion that it helps them take care of the plants! When plants are very small, they might need different things than when they are big plants.
    5. Next, talk about what will happen to the plant after its current stage. For instance, if the plant is flowering, it will then grow pods, fill beans, and eventually will dry out. After the plant is dry, the farmer will come to collect the beans.
    6. Have students get out their science journals and growing stages book. Tell them to fill out their science journal first, using detail and drawing pictures. Then, write or draw what the adult stage of soybean growth is like.
    7. Wrap up this lesson with a quick review of what stages they have learned about so far.

    Lesson 5:  Uses for Soybeans and review growing stages

    1. Show the students pictures of all soybean growth stages and discuss what they have learned about each stage.
    2. Lead the discussion into what happens to soybeans after they are harvested.  Ask students what soybeans are used for.
      1. Students could say things like animal feeds, cooking oil, tofu, edamame, soy sauce, soy biodiesel, and many others.
    3. Discuss the many uses of soybeans and show students pictures of products made from soybeans. Here are some products resources:
    4. Read Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic by Ginnie Lo and Beth Lo.
      1. Talk about some of the ways the family in the book uses soybeans. Make a list on the board of things that soybeans can be used for.
      2. Here is a news-like video clip that can be shown to the class about soybean uses:
    5. Refer back to the chart with student answers from the first lesson and have students tell what they have learned.
    6. Have students write and/or draw about a few of the products they learned are made from soybeans in their science journals.
    7. On the 5 th page of the growth stages book, have students write or draw some products that come from soybeans. Then, on the 6 th page, have students write two or three things they learned about soybeans during the unit.
      1. Give students the opportunity to finish their books, and have them turn them in for grading.

    Essential Files:

    Did you know? (Ag facts):

    • The United States grows approximately 70 million acres of soybeans every year.
    • Iowa is the leading state in soybean production.
    • The height of a grown soybean can be between 0.66 to 6.56 feet.
    • Soybeans grow in pods similar to peas.
    • Soybean leaves are covered with miniature gray hairs.
    • Soybeans produce white, pink, or purple flowers.
    • The soybean plant has a short vegetation season usually harvested 80-120 days after planting.
    • An acre of soybeans can make 82,368 crayons.
    • One-half of all daily U.S. newspapers are printed with soybean oil-based ink.
    • Soybean oil is the most widely used vegetable oil.
    • The soybean is the highest natural source of dietary fiber.

    Extension Activities:

    • Invite a guest speaker that is an expert on soybeans (contact your local extension office).
    • Live chat with a farmer using Skype or a similar video chat service.
    • Create a writing activity by writing letters to a soybean farmer, agronomist, or extension soybean specialist.



    Diane Joanning

    Chrissy Rhodes

    Organization Affiliation:

    Hinton Elementary

    Hinton Community School

    National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes:

    • Agriculture and the Environment:
      • T1.K-2.a: Describe how farmers/ranchers use land to grow crops and support livestock
    • Plants and animals for Food, Fiber and Energy:
      • T2.K-2.a: Explain how farmers/ranchers work with the life cycle of plants and animals (planting/breeding) to harvest a crop.
      • T2.K-2.c: Identify example of feed/food products eaten by animals and people.
    • Food, Health, and Lifestyle:
      • T3.K-2.b: Recognize that agriculture provides our most basic necessities: food, fiber (fabric or clothing) energy, and shelter
    • Culture, Society, Economy, and Geography:
      • 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:
      • 1-LS1-1: Use materials to design a solution to a human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs.
      • 1-LS1-2: Read texts and use media to determine patterns in behavior of parents and offspring that help offspring survive.
      • 1-LS3-1: Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly like, their parents.
    • Language Arts:
      • RI.1.3: Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.
      • W.1.2: Write an informative piece that has a topic, facts about the topic, and a closing.

    Creative Commons License

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.