Bulbs Across the Curriculum

By Eve Pranis, June 23, 2008

The article Turn on Learning with Bulbs should have intrigued, inspired, and sparked your thinking about using flower bulbs as learning tools. Here are some additional activity ideas for engaging your students in fruitful bulb inquiries.

Science Investigations/Questions

* Experiment with different methods for chilling bulbs for forcing. Explore whether and how the length of "winter" affects the bulb's growth and flowering. Discuss why some bulbs require this treatment. What does this tell us about their climatic adaptations? How do you think this adaptation promotes their survival?

* Compare growing bulbs is potting mix with and without bonemeal or bulb fertilizer.

* Discover the difference between bulbs (e.g., tulips) and corms (e.g., crocus) by dissecting and comparing one of each.

* Dig up bulbs at different stages of being "chilled." Predict, then examine them to discover what occurs at different stages.

* Slice one bulb vertically and another one horizontally to compare and observe their structure.

* Compare the growth and development of different size bulbs.

* Try raising amaryllis from both seeds and bulbs. Have students consider why bulb-like structures are useful adaptations for reproduction.

History/Geography Activities

* Find out about the history of bulbs and trace their movement across the globe.

* Learn about the cultural, economic, and aesthetic roles of bulbs in Holland.

* Find out which bulb-like plants are used as foods in different countries. Then have a classroom bulb-tasting party.

Math Activities:

* Measure bulb height and chart growth over time

* Calculate the growth rate in inches or centimeters per day.

* Compare the growth rates of different types or sizes of bulbs.

* Determine when to plant different types of bulbs if want to have flowers on a certain date.

* Design and conduct a survey for parents, neighbors, and other teachers to learn about bulb growing habits and preferences.

Language Activities

* Using bulb catalogs, have students cut out bulb pictures and names, and create a collage or Lotto-type game.

* Read The Secret Garden and identify references to bulbs.

* Write a big book/biography about a classroom bulb.

* Create a story, from a bulb's perspective, about its life cycle.

* Write thank-you notes and stories about your class bulb projects to share with Breck's Bulb Company and with the National Gardening Association.

Arts Activities

* Raise bulbs for holiday gifts in decorated, recycled containers.

* Dramatize the life of a bulb throughout a year, highlighting the different stages through which it progresses.

* Illustrate garden journals with sketches of different stages of classroom bulbs.

* Try cutting some bulbs in different ways and making prints with tempera paints.

A Bulb by Any Other Name

The word bulb loosely describes plants that grow from an underground mass of food storage tissue. True bulbs, like tulips and daffodils, contain a complete miniature plant surrounded by fleshy scales of food (mostly carbohydrates) to nourish the plant-all attached to a basal plate from which roots grow. If you slice a bulb in half horizontally, you'll see rings formed by the scales (an onion is a great example!). If you slice one vertically at planting time, you should see a miniature plant.

Corms, like crocuses, are modified stems containing food, with eyes from which flowers and leaves grow. Tubers, like potatoes and begonias, are underground stems that store food and grow from eyes on the surface. Rhizomes, like iris, are horizontal stems at or below the su Consider bringing in samples of different bulb-like plants for students to examine, compare, plant, dissect, and/or use in their own growing experiments.

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