Many schools include a study of plants in the third grade science curriculum, and some teachers rely on diagram worksheets to show students pictures of each part of a plant. While this can be an effective instructional method, it doesn't do much to capture the interest of your students and keep them engaged in the topic for the duration of the science unit. Hands-on projects can help you accomplish that goal.

I Can Eat A Whole Plant

Eating a snack is an effective way to illustrate the various parts of plants. Before doing this lesson, however, make sure your students don't have food allergies and get parent permission to serve the different foods. Set up several stations around your classroom, each focusing on one part of the plant. Students can visit each station, a few kids at a time, to sample each part of the plant. For seeds, set out sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and peas, and for stems, set out celery stalks and asparagus spears. Broccoli, cauliflower and squash blossoms are examples of flowers humans eat, and carrots, beets and turnips are good examples of roots. Spinach, lettuce, kale and cabbage will complete your leaf station, and berries, apples, cucumber and tomatoes are good additions to the fruit station. Ask younger children to draw their favorite parts of plants and have older children write a paragraph about which parts they liked the most.

Grow An Edible Garden

Watching plants grow is an effective way to illustrate the different parts of a plant, suggests the U.S. Department of the Interior. This lesson will take several days, but it will introduce plant growth by showing students several vegetable, fruit, herb and flower seeds. Encourage your third graders to share what's similar and different about the seeds. Provide a clear plastic cup of potting soil and a seed, such as a bean, squash or pea seed, and have the children bury their seed in the dirt. Take time each day for students to water their seeds. Once the seeds sprout and begin to grow, encourage students to point out the stem and leaves. Because the seeds are planted in clear cups, your students can also study the roots of their plant as it grows. Encourage the children to keep journals where they draw and write about the changes they see as their plant grows.

Make and Do A Puzzle

Give students handouts that show the parts of a plant or do a whole group activity where each student draws and colors a plant on a blank piece of paper. Once the plants are drawn, work together to label the different parts, including the seed, roots, stem, leaves, flower and fruit. Ask the students to cut their picture into several pieces and then swap puzzles with a friend. As each third grader puts their friend's puzzle together, have them glue it to a piece of green paper. Once the puzzles are complete, invite students to show their work to the rest of the class, pointing out where the parts of each plant are located. This lesson helps reinforce the different parts of the plant, but it also helps students form a visual picture by requiring them to remember where each part of the plant is located, such as roots underground, to successfully put the puzzle together.

Paint A Still Life

Bring several plants, such as a daisy, tomato plant, squash plant and a petunia, to show your students. Review the different parts of each plant together. Then provide blank paper, several colors of paint and paintbrushes. Ask the students to choose one of the plants to be their "model." Have the third graders paint a still-life rendition of their chosen plant, being sure to include each of the different parts they see. Hang the pictures up around your classroom to remind students of what they've learned. This activity can be used as an assessment tool at the end of a plant unit to determine if third graders have learned what you set out to teach them.