Lesson 1 Prep

Root Vegetables

The first lesson of my after school enrichment class "Get Growing!" is all about root vegetables. To demonstrate how bulbs grow, for our activity we will plant narcissus bulbs for forcing. There are some great resources online and I've forced narcissus bulbs in water before. I like to be prepared so, here's what I did ahead of time.

Purchase and prepare bulbs

Because I wouldn't know how many students would sign up for my class until last week, I didn't pre-order bulbs back in November. I was worried that no one would be interested, but the class filled up right away! I will have 12 students total. Luckily the local hardware store still had narcissus bulbs for forcing.

I picked out 20 bulbs, enough for 1 per student, 1 for my demo bulb, and a few extra to replace duds.

I pre-sprouted the bulb roots a week before the class to be sure they are viable and to give the students a head start. First I rubbed off the old dead roots and extra papery skins. This isn't required but I want new roots to be really visible and removing loose skins will keep down the mess factor later.

I'm using a lattice bottomed tray nested in a plant tray. After taking the picture I decided to do the right thing and give them both a wash.

Take the tray of bulbs to the dark corner of the basement before adding the water. Trust me.

I added just enough water to cover the root ends of the bulbs and left them alone in the dark. About 4 days later, all but three have impressive root growth.

2 or three days ahead

This week I started my demo-bulb and collected edible bulb, root, rhizome, and tuber examples from the grocery store (onions, carrots, potatoes etc). I also hit the library for some good garden related books for the grades 1-4 crowd.


I bought a 5lb bag from the garden store because I needed quantity for the class. I found them in the specialty potting soil section, intended for succulents and cactus. The craft store also had pebbles in the flower arrangement department. The crafty pebbles came in fun colors and were cleaner, but a handful of craft pebbles cost about as much as my 5lb bag. You can also collect pebbles and rocks from your yard.


Clear plastic containers allow students to see the roots growing and won't break like glass when dropped. You could repurpose the bottoms of soda bottles, but nobody drinks that much soda anymore. I purchased plastic punch glasses - short and wide cups keep the center of gravity low and prevent tipping later.

transport supplies

My students will assemble the cups dry and take them home to add water and grow. We'll put each cup (with bulb and pebbles) in a paper lunch sack and staple the top shut.