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Smart Plant Watering Science

In this family STEM activity, students experiment to find out how the structure of soil determines how much water the soil holds. Can you use simple home science to better water your plants and gardens and reduce water waste? Find out with a hands-on water smart science activity at home!

Smart Plant Watering Science / Family Science Activity

Plants Need Water

Most plants and gardens depend on regular watering to grow, but how often do they really need to be watered? With drought an issue in many areas, excessive watering of plants, lawns, and gardens can be a real problem. Maybe your plants don't need to be watered as often as you think? Or maybe there are changes you can make to your soil to make the watering you do last longer? A family science activity can help you and your kids make water-conscious decisions about your gardens and watering schedule!

Should you water every day? Every two days? Every three? How often your plants need water depends on several variables, including the structure and composition of the soil. Both of these factors affect how long water stays in the soil, providing moisture to the plants. Soils with organic content, for example, will hold water longer than soils without. Plants in a garden or pot with an organic-mix soil may not need to be watered as frequently as plants in other soils.

The size of the particles in the soil also plays a role in how well and how long the soil holds water. In this week's family science activity, kids experiment with rice in different granularities to see how quickly water passes through a simulated soil. Will water move more quickly through rice (unground), rice meal (coarsely ground), or rice flour (finely ground)? How does the surface area change with each of these types of rice and how does an increase or decrease in surface area relate to how much water the "soil" holds? Find out with a hands-on science activity!

The following Science Buddies activity on the Scientific American website has all the information you need to do this science activity with your students at home: Water-Wise: Keep Soil Wet without Waste.

Making Connections

Students interested in gardening, agriculture, or questions related to water conservation may also enjoy the following hands-on science project ideas:

See also: Drinking Up Water Science During a Drought.

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