Out of the Box Lesson Ideas

Let’s Get Creative!!!

Do you think your students will laugh at you if you tell them to conduct a scientific experiment that involves talking to plants? Good! If they’re laughing, they’re not bored so for this section, trade in your tasseled cap for your wizard hat and let your imagination go wild.

One of our young customers had advanced in the complexity of his experiments and wanted to test the effects of gravitational pull on plant growth. He conducted an experiment in which plants were spinning on twin turn tables. Out of the box thinking finds solutions.

If you decide to work with any of the ideas in this section, we highly recommend that you first read, The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird. It is mind expanding, enlightening, grounded in science and it forms the basis for the majority of this section. For advanced MG-HS, you may want to have your students read it as well and incorporate it into the lessons.

The goal of this section is to look beyond the obvious, to see more than the eyes reveal, to ask why and how and to search for innovative ways to discover the answers. Below are just a few suggestions. There are virtually no limits to how you and your students can utilize and expand on this material and we invite you to share what you come up with so all may benefit from each other’s creativity.

  1. Does Talking to Plants Improve Their Health and Yield?-What??? You thought the opening sentence was a joke? We’re just warming up. Split class into two teams and have each grow an identical garden. The singular variable is conversation. In one garden, the plants are treated as inanimate objects and receive no acknowledgement apart from basic care and feeding. In the second garden, the students should dialogue with the plants and acknowledge them as sentient beings on a consistent schedule throughout the day. Encourage them to greet the plants each morning when they arrive at the classroom, to compliment them, ask them how they’re doing, and tell them how much you appreciate the food they will soon provide for your table. Tell them they are beautiful and you’re proud of them. Be consistent and have the student’s journal the time they spend each day dialoguing with the garden and what they talked about. Document any and all differences from growth rates to yield.
  2. Are Plants Sensitive to Their Emotional Environment?-The same as above except in this experiment, rather than simply not talking to the plants, the second group will insult the plants and speak to them in harsh tones. Both gardens must be identical in genetics, temperature, nutrients and light hours but one garden is treated with love and spoken to kindly while the other is criticized and even yelled at. The results of this may surprise both you and your class and this one can also be a lesson in empathy. The group that must treat their plants unkindly is very likely to find it difficult and feel bad about it. A child who can empathize with the suffering of a plant is likely to become a compassionate adult. Have both groups write a paper about their feelings and it becomes a Language Arts lesson as well.
  3. Variations of Above-The above experiments can be done, substituting a variety of stimuli and documenting the effects throughout the plants life. Some of these may be prohibited by space as they require separate rooms but be creative. A supply closet can easily be converted to a small garden for a semester. If you are able, try comparisons with different types of music, i.e., death metal vs. classical, hip hop vs. easy listening, etc. Test playing nature sounds vs. city sounds. Experiment with aroma therapy, crystals, subliminal messages and more. Have the class submit their own ideas and let us know what brilliant things they come up with.
  4. Energy/Telepathy-Is there unseen energy connecting all living things? Is it possible to communicate and even effect matter with your mind? Research chemist, Marcel Vogel, had the most success in these types of experiments with younger children and found them nearly impossible to duplicate with most adults. Conventions destroy the part of us that easily believed in the unseen when we were children. Perhaps tangible proof to the power of their minds will help your students keep open the magical part essential to the souls of all who explore, discover and create.

Spiritual development is essential. But this runs counter to the philosophy of many scientist, who do not realize that creative experimentation means that the experimenters must become part of their experiments. 

      1. Small philodendrons (rooted cuttings in 6”pots) are an excellent choice as they are resilient to handling and low light conditions. A window that receives a few hours of direct sun or a horticultural fluorescent are sufficient. You will need a plant for each student.
        1. Similar to Experiment 2 except that the stimulus is given to the plant in silence through the student’s mind. The plants are labeled so the student works with the same plant for the duration. For 4-6 weeks, have the students spend a consistent, allotted amount of time with their plants. Have them focus on sending energy to the plants, half the class sending positive, loving thoughts and the other sending negative, destructive thoughts. Inform the students secretly which group they are in and tell them not to reveal it to the other students for the duration of the experiment. At the end, reveal which plants received which type of input and note all overall differences in health and growth rates between the two groups. Invite discussion. How and why thoughts affect the health of plants, what other things are affected by our minds, the source of intelligence and emotional response in the absence of a brain; the topics are endless.
        2. Same setup; different stimulus. Have all of the student’s select three closely grouped leaves on their plant. Using the same time and duration guidelines as above, have them focus in visualizing two of the leaves thriving and vibrant. They should do nothing but send loving, strong, positive energy to the two leaves they selected while totally ignoring the third. Document and discuss results. Vogel found that when doing this experiment with children or trained energy workers, the ignored leaf consistently withered and died while the two receiving energy thrived.
    • Write a short story from the plants POV-This exercise can be combined with any of the experiments, expanding the curriculum covered in a single lesson as well as more deeply integrating the teaching into the student’s minds. It is easily adapted to any grade level and you are likely to find the insights of younger children the most profound. Feel free to share with us. We love to hear about your journey.


Please check back frequently. We will continue to expand this section as we discover new ideas and material.