Lesson Plan

The Scientific Method

A pink fireweed blossom.
Common fireweed blossoms grow throughout the Exit Glacier area.

NPS Photo / J. Pfeiffenberger

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Grade Level:
Tenth Grade-Twelfth Grade
Botany, Science and Technology
24 days
Group Size:
8 or fewer
National/State Standards:
National Standards: Science A 1, A 2
hypothesis, scientific method, observations, variables, lesson plan, alaska


Students will conduct a basic soil science experiment and re-familiarize themselves with the scientific method.


Students will observe the effects of soil on seed germination and growth. Students will determine the nutrient and pH values of the soils they used for their seeds.


This lesson is ideal as a precursor to the lesson on Succession and Nutrient Cycling in a Temperate Rainforest Ecosystem. It will prepare students for a more extensive encounter with experimental design.


You will need at least one copy of "Forging Connections - An Educational Resource For Kenai Fjords National Park", page 103, features this lesson. 

Each student will need:

  • Journal for experiment observations
  • Clear plastic cup with two holes in the bottom
  • Slightly wider cup / plastic container to act as a saucer
  • 1 to 5 previously planted bean seeds in plastic cups, also with two holes in the bottom
  • Small plastic sandwich bag of soil that a student collects and brings from home

In addition, for the entire class you will need soil text kits (a set of 10 for each nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and pH). These can be ordered from biological supply companies.



Look for all aspects of the lab to be written up in the journal. There should be a hypothesis, charted data, observations, and a conclusion for both parts of the experiment. There should be an understanding of variables within the lab and there should be some comparisons made between the student’s work and that of the group.

Park Connections

If your class lives near a glacier, you might suggest that the soils they brought from home are like the soils in Kenai Fjords National Park—lots of rock, not much nourishment or water. Ask how long it takes after glacial till is formed for plants to grow? How would you be able to determine this? How would this quality of soil afect a park manager’s decision to build a trail? How does it affect the growth of plants in an area where the glacier has been?


It is likely that no student’s bean seeds will grow as well as the teacher’s since the teacher is using potting soil. Raise this as a question: Why didn’t your seeds do as well? See if anyone can come up with an answer about the origin of the soil. In some areas the soil will be glacial till, largely rock and recently broken down rock. This type of soil does not hold water or nutrients well. Clay soils present another problem by binding nutrients so tightly to the soil molecules and not allowing for drainage. What do the folks who make potting soil need to be sure they are working towards for a good soil?


Additional Resources


Lichens, Litterfall, Nitrogen Fixing, Nutrient cycling, Photosynthesis, Precipitation,
Soil pH, Substrate, Succession, Temperate Rainforest, Throughfall.

Last updated: March 30, 2018