The Garden in a Jar: A Science Lesson

The entire natural world contains an enchantment that cannot be replicated in any storybook. There is no greater example of this than watching a new life burst out into the world from something as simple as a seed.

Observing the mysterious power contained within seeds is not the work of gardeners alone. It can be witnessed easily and simply in your own kitchen.

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What You Need

  • A wide mouth mason jar

  • A sprouting screen to fit in the lid of the jar (a pair of pantyhose and a rubber band will do)

  • A few seeds (any kind will do)

The Lesson

1. Tell A story about the seeds

Hold one of the beans or seeds hidden in the palm of your hand and tell a little story of the seed. Say:

"I have something very special to show you. The thing I have in my hand right now is alive!"

Open your palm slowly and dramatically. Allow the child to observe the seed for a moment or two and then continue. Say:

"This is a seed. It contains new life inside that can nourish us by giving us fresh oxygen to breathe and food to eat. But right now this very minute, the seed is sleeping.

When a seed sleeps, we say it is dormant. If we want it to grow, we will need to wake it up.

Would you like to wake it up so that it can nourish us?" 

If the child is engaged in the story, allow some wait time for answering questions and discussing. If the child is not engaged, simply resume with your task as though you are engaged yourself.

"I would like to wake this seed up! It will need to rest in water overnight. First, I need a jar..." 

2. Soak the seeds

Place a small handful of seeds in the jar.

  • If your seeds are tiny, like alfalfa or broccoli, a teaspoon or two is all you need.
  • If your seeds are larger, like mung beans, try a couple tablespoonfuls.
  • If your seeds are rather large, like garbanzo beans, a 1/4 to 1/2 half a cup may be more appropriate.

Don't worry about being exact. Just put some seeds in the jar and fill the jar with water. Make sure that you really fill up the jar with water (filtered is best). It may even make sense to do this part in a bowl rather than in the jar. Your seeds will soak up a lot of water... maybe even more than you think.

Place the screened lid on the jar.

3. Rinse the Water

The next morning, pour out the water and pour in fresh water - straight through the screen lid - rinsing your seeds. They have awoken and are now ready to sprout.

After the seeds are rinsed, pour all of the water out through the screen and leave the jar sideways or tilted downwards so that any remaining water will drain out and not continue to soak the seeds.

Continue rinsing and draining twice a day over the next several days, and you should see your sprouts growing.

4. Enjoy !

The sprouts are healthy, and if you've rinsed them daily and checked for mold, the risk for bacteria infection is fairly low. Nothing left out on the kitchen counter overnight is completely without risk, so do your research and settle on what you feel comfortable with.

Mung bean sprouts are crunchy and delicious fresh out of the jar. Garbanzo beans can be boiled and made into a delicious hummus or soup. However, the decision to eat what you grow on your kitchen counter is completely up to you.

I can tell you that the children will be just as thrilled to explore the sprouts with their fingers or to plant them into some dirt to continue growing if you choose not to eat them. If you do eat them, many children will be thrilled to try them. Growing your own food is a very powerful experience!

Sprouts in a Jar! Every child needs one of these in the kitchen.