First-grade curricula across the country include lessons on the parts of plants, as well as plants’ basic needs for survival. Keep a first-grade lesson on the parts of a plant interesting by varying traditional instruction and hands-on activities. This approach will allow students to absorb the information and then put it into practice. Furthermore, introducing actual plants into the lesson will help your students connect the ideas they've learned about with actual plant parts.

Read and Instruct

Begin the lesson by reading a book about plants to your students, such as "The Carrot Seed" by Ruth Krauss or "From Seed to Plant" by Gail Gibbons. Discuss what the first graders already know about plants and what they learned from the book. Ask your students what plant parts they know; write all of their answers on the chalkboard. Pass out a worksheet that shows an image of a plant, and instruct students to label the stem, leaves, seed, roots, flowers and so on. After they've finished, project an image of a plant onto a screen or an interactive whiteboard -- or draw one on the chalkboard -- and call on students to identify parts of the plant.

Explore and Craft

After you've completed the initial traditional instruction about plant parts, take the class outside to study some real plants. When outside, ask students to point out nearby plants. For each plant, ask first graders to identify the visible parts -- stem, leaves, flowers, and so on -- as well as the ones they can't see, such as the roots and seeds. Using a digital camera, take pictures of the plants they locate, along with close-ups of individual plant parts. When you get back into the classroom, load the images onto your computer, print them out and have students help you make a collage with the pictures.

Seeds and Sun

Explain to the class that plants are the only life forms on Earth that make their own food. Introduce the term "photosynthesis" and explain that plants use sunlight, water and carbon dioxide from the air to perform photosynthesis. Call students' attention back to the book you read in the beginning of the lesson, particularly to the fact that plants grow from seeds. Explain that for seeds to grow, they also need water and heat from the sun. Then, ask the first graders whether they'd like to see it happen for themselves.

Germinate and Plant

Bring in a roll of paper towels, a resealable sandwich bag for each student in your class and a packet of carrot seeds. Give each first grader one of the bags and a paper towel. Fill a shallow tray with water and have students wet their paper towels; then gently wring the towels out so that they are damp. Help your students spread a few carrot seeds onto half of their paper towel and then fold over the other half of the towel, covering the seeds. Have students place their paper towels carefully into their bags, and then place the bags on a sunlit portion of the windowsill. In a few days, the first graders will see that the seeds have germinated. You can then bring in pots and potting soil and help students plant their own carrot plants.