Teaching Suggestions
Exploring Conditions That Affect Plant Growth

(Back to Slideshow Overview)


Sunny or shady? Wet or dry? Windy or calm? Plants respond to the climate where they are growing. Microclimate refers to the climate conditions of a small, specific place, where conditions may differ from those of the larger surrounding space. Explore conditions that create microclimates: sunlight, humidity, moisture, and wind. Try the Microclimate Challenge: Plant tulip bulbs in microclimates with contrasting conditions to discover how climate affects plant growth.

Essential Question:
How do climate conditions affect plant growth?
Set the Stage for Learning

1. Assess background knowlege with an Anticipation Guide. Give students an index card. Have them write true on one side and false on the other. Read each statement and have students hold up their cards. Have them share reasons for their answers. Optional preview resources: Headings Handout and Word Cards

2. Define microclimate by describing a secret spot on the schoolyard: This morning, I hid a special stone somewhere outside. It's in a sunny spot protected from cold north winds. Continue giving microclimate clues and have students predict the location. Go outside to find and gather around the stone. Explain microclimate and have students predict what factors may be creating different conditions around the schoolyard.

booklet cover

"M" for Microclimate

3. Preview images using the Photo Gallery page. On chart paper, post the essential question: How does where you plant bulbs affect when tulips will emerge and bloom? Have students make predictions and ask questions based on the photos.
gallery of images
Viewing the Slideshow

Read the slideshow together. Stop occasionally to spotlight ideas or ask questions. Encourage students to share their own questions. The printable booklet can be used for partner or at-home reading.

Activities for Exploring Microclimates

1. Predict air temperatures. Give students a sketched map of your school grounds. Ask: Which areas do you think might be warmer than others? Have students mark their predictions on the map. Encourage them to share what factors may create temperature differences.

Sample Map

2. Review climate and microclimate. Climate is a region's long-term weather patterns. Microclimate is an area with different temperatures than surrounding areas. It can be a small area, even as small as a few feet. Revisit the slideshow to review conditions that create microclimates.

3. Find examples of microclimates. Explore differences in air temperatures in various locations on the schoolyard. Have students predict what factors may be affecting temperatures. Compare temperatures found around your school with the high, low, and average temperatures reported for your city.
4. Collect and analyze data. Place students into groups. Assign each group a small area in the schoolyard. Use data chart to help students collect information about conditions they find at each of the sites. Collect data at different times on different days. Use analysis chart to help students examine microclimate data.

5. Explore soil moisture. Fold up a paper towel until it is about the size of your hand. Press the paper towel to a bare patch of soil. Check for moisture on the towel. Dig up a small amount of soil from under the surface. Test the soil moisture of this subsurface soil. Compare it to the surface soil. For comparison, repeat this process in areas with different types of soil.

Try the Microclimate Challenge

Plant bulbs in garden sites with contrasting conditions. In areas where you cannot dig, consider placing bulbs in planting containers. Use the data collection and analysis charts to help students explore how microclimate affects plant growth. Predict when tulips will emerge at each site and where the plants will bloom best.

Observe all winter and into spring. Record conditions such as snow and leaf cover. Measure air and soil temperatures. Analyze findings: How do the Experimental (microclimate) Gardens compare to your Official Test Garden? Provide time to summarize findings, share discoveries, revise predictions, and ask new questions.

Report your findings to Journey North. Let us know what you found out about your different microclimate sites.

Wrap Up

1. Ask questions to assess understanding. Have students share their microclimate discoveries by creating a Tulip Garden Guide with planting recommendations.

2. Collect at-home microclimate data. Have students observe the microclimate in their own yard or near their homes and compare their observations with the data obtained at school.

Helpful Handouts

analyze garden analyze garden analyze garden
Describe Your Microclimate Measure Microclimate Conditions Emerge and Bloom Dates
analyze garden analyze garden map of your school
Comparing Sites: Summary PDF: Guiding Questions Make a Schoolyard Map