Nothing like setting up an experiment in the classroom and it not turning out exactly how you expected, right? Well, I’m here to share all my tips and tricks for growing beans in the classroom so your experiments are a success!
- dried beans (pole, bush, or lima beans)
- paper towels
- spray bottle of water
- clear glass jar or small clear plastic cup
My #1 Tip for Success
Before I go any further, I want to tell you the one thing I feel makes or breaks this experiment. It’s what will get you tall, lovely sprouts like the picture above in only ten days:
Soak the Beans in Water Overnight!
I can’t stress enough that you should soak the beans in water overnight beforehand. I’ve tried the experiment with and without soaking the beans. Soaking the beans boosts the germination process and you see roots in a day or two. Within ten days, the bean sprouts have a tall stem with leaves growing out of the top of the jar. When I’ve not presoaked the beans, it took five or six days for the first root to begin to emerge. Even then, the entire germination process seemed to go a lot slower.
Now that you’ve soaked your beans, let’s start the experiment!
- Fill the container about halfway with paper towels.
- Place several beans on the outside of the paper towels in the container so you can watch them grow.
- Spray the paper towels with water to dampen them.
- Place the container near a window or on a window ledge.
- Observe and watch the beans grow over the following days and weeks!
Can the Seeds Grow Without Soil?
We teach students that plants need water, air, sunlight and soil to grow. Some students may wonder how these seeds will grow without soil. It might be helpful to point out that you can germinate seeds, or help them start to grow, without soil. Why? It’s because the food the seed needs to start growing is inside the seed. The seed provides food for a short time and then you must plant the seedling in soil for it to continue to grow.
This experiment helps students learn the basic needs of seeds and plants. What happens if they don’t get what they need?
Prepare a few extra jars with beans and alter some of their growing conditions. Observe what happens.
- No water: Don’t soak the beans in water overnight or wet the paper towels in the container.
- No air: Use a sandwich bag for this one. Use a straw to suck as much air from the bag as possible before zipping it shut.
- No sunlight: Place the jars away from windows or even in a dark space like a cabinet.
- Not enough space: Place seeds in a group touching each other.
- No soil: Seeds will germinate without soil, but will they keep growing and produce fruit (beans) if left in the container with no soil? This will take a lot longer to observe. Another option is to plant the beans in sand. Give them water and sunlight, and observe what happens.
Growing Beans FAQs
What beans did you use?
I used pole and lima beans. I’ve successfully germinated both kinds.
Do I need beans from a seed packet or can I used dried beans from the grocery store?
While you may certainly use a purchased seed packet of beans, I’ve always had success germinating and sprouting dried beans I’ve brought at the grocery store. I recommend soaking and germinating a couple of dried beans at home to make sure your dried beans will work before doing it with your students.
How long will it take to see anything?
One or two days if you soak the beans overnight, five or six days if you don’t soak them. I soaked my beans overnight and put them in a jar and baggie. The very next day I already saw the root coming out of most of the beans.
Can I do this experiment anytime of year?
I think so! I live in the Midwest and germinated these seeds towards the end of January! Even though it was cold outside and the windows themselves felt cold, there was enough sunlight and warmth to begin germination. If you want to keep the plants alive or transfer them into a garden, you will need to begin germination closer to actual planting time.
What if the paper towels get dry?
Use a spray bottle of water to moisten the paper towels if you feel they are too dry.
Can I germinate beans in a sandwich bag?
Absolutely! Just place a damp paper towel and several beans in a zip-top sandwich bag and seal it. Then tape or place the bag on or near a window and watch them grow!
Students learn so much about plants by growing beans in the classroom. It’s really fun to watch the little beans grow so quickly. Sometimes there’s a huge difference from day to day. I hope these tricks and tips help you and your students become expert germinators!