Sprouting Off

By Eve Pranis

For several years, Roger Crowley's third grade students in Montpelier, VT, have become silly about sprouts. They've written sprout stories, developed sprout characters, and magnified sprouts to project on classroom walls. The sprout project germinated one year when a social studies unit on pioneers sparked student interest in sprouts as a food source. Another year, students grew enough sprouts to start a small business. They developed a logo and advertisements, and took orders for sprouts from the school cafeteria and a local deli. They used computer spreadsheets to keep accounts and estimate profits. "Our sprout tasting party was a big hit," said Roger. "We experimented with all sorts of combinations including sprouts on jello!"

Exploring sprouts in the classroom doesn't have to be this involved to provide opportunities for learning across the curriculum. Consider challenging your students to use what they've learned about seeds' germination needs to experiment with different methods of making edible sprouts.

Sprouting Tips

You can sprout a range of seeds -- radishes, lentils, sunflowers, peas, wheat, rye, and even broccoli -- for edible sprouts, but it's best to start with the standard alfalfa and mung bean seeds. Make sure to use seeds (from supermarkets, health food stores, or catalogs) that are for eating and have not been treated with fungicides.

1. Soak 2 tablespoons of alfalfa seeds or 5 tablespoons of mung bean seeds overnight in water. Drain and place seeds in a quart jar. Cover the jar with cheesecloth, secured with a rubber band. (You can later experiment with other containers, such as baskets, colanders, or even stockings!)

2. Place the jar on its side (or tipped slightly downward for better drainage) in a warm, dim, or dark place. Twice a day, rinse seeds with cool tap water and make sure to drain them well through the cheesecloth before replacing the jar on its side.

3. After several days, place the jar in the light for a day or two to encourage green color (as photosynthesis begins) and vitamin production.

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