STEAM Connections: Greenhouse Effect

Have you ever seen or been inside of a greenhouse? Do you know how they are able to provide the ideal environment to help you successfully grow a variety of plants? Let’s explore the greenhouse effect by creating our own mini greenhouse using a plastic glove.

Content Overview

A greenhouse is an enclosed transparent structure made of either glass or plastic that houses flowers and plants. Greenhouses help provide ideal conditions for photosynthesis to occur, which is the process where plants convert light energy into chemical energy, that then converts water and carbon dioxide, amongst other minerals, into food for the plant.

The walls and ceiling of a greenhouse allow sunlight in during the day, which is absorbed by plants and also trapped inside the greenhouse in the form of heat. This trapped heat will help keep the plants warm, even when the outside temperature drops or night falls. This ability for the inside of the greenhouse to retain heat helps to keep the environment stable, which is important for the plants which may not grow well in colder temperatures. As long as the plants in the greenhouse are also provided with water, photosynthesis will occur and healthy plants should grow!

Because a greenhouse is enclosed, it gives us the opportunity to control the temperature and humidity inside. Bigger greenhouses even have fans and vents to help gardeners control the environment more, allowing heat or moisture out as needed.

Hands-On Exploration

We are going to create our own simple greenhouse that will trap heat from the sun and moisture from water to create the perfect environment for our bean seeds to start the process of germination, or the sprouting of a plant from a seed. Our beans should start to sprout in 3-5 days and by day 10 we should be able to take the sprouted seed and plant it in soil.

Activity Demonstration and Supplies

Let’s build our greenhouse! You will need:

  • 1 plastic glove
  • 5 cotton balls
  • 5 bean seeds
  • Masking tape
  • Water

The glove is going to act as our enclosed greenhouse environment. Once we add our water and bean seeds, we will close off our glove by taping it to a sunny window. This will create our mini greenhouse and we can watch our seeds begin to grow! Make sure to check on your seeds every day to track their progress!  

Instructions:

  1. Lay your glove out on the table, this is going to be our greenhouse.
  2. Dip each of our cotton balls into the bowl of water and gently wring them out, we want them to still be slightly damp since plants need water to grow!
  3. Drop 1 cotton ball into each of the five fingers on the glove.
  4. Drop 1 bean seed into each finger.
  5. Use your hands to gently maneuver the seed onto the side of the cotton ball, so that it is covered by the cotton, not sitting on top of it.
  6. Using masking tape to close off the hole, tape the glove to a window that receives plenty of sunshine!
  7. Watch your seed begin to sprout over the next week, being sure to record your observations daily.
  8. If you have soil and an empty pot, after 1-2 weeks you can transplant your sprouted seed to allow the green bean to continue growing!
Talk About the Activity
  • How many days passed before you began to see your seed sprouting?
  • Did our seed need soil to begin growing? Do you think it needs soil to continue growing into a strong and healthy plant?
  • Do you think you would have different results if you repeated this project using different seeds? Would they grow at different rates?
  • Do you think our mini glove greenhouse is as effective at controlling temperature as a real greenhouse? Why or why not?
Continued Learning

Did you know that earth’s climate is controlled in a very similar way to a greenhouse? During the day, sunlight shines through earth’s atmosphere providing light and warmth. As night falls, heat is released back into the air but gases in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide and methane keep some of that heat trapped on earth so we don’t experience the chill of outer space at night.

To continue your learning, take a walk outside as a family and talk about the different kinds of plants and flowers you see. Do you think they would grow better inside of a greenhouse? Why? What times of the year do you think a greenhouse would be really beneficial for plant growth? Can you find any greenhouses in your neighborhood?

Check It Out

Learn more about gardening, growing plants, and greenhouses with resources from the library:

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