6. Relationships: Plants, Animals, and Water

(This is the Lesson Plan 6 for Rose Honey’s curriculum, Discovering Our Relationship with Water.)


Honey, R., Miko Mae Lindquist North in Rattlesnake Creek, Missoula, Montana, 2013


  • Water is something that we need, and plants and animals also need, for our survival.
  • Our relationship with water is sacred, and plants and animals also have a sacred relationship with water.


Lewis and Clark wrote about many plants and animals on their journey. On May 30, 1806, Clark wrote about the reptiles he observed in the area. “The reptiles which I have observed are… the common black lizard, the horned lizard, a small green tree frog, the small frog which is common to our country which sings in the spring of the year, a large species of frog which resorts the water considerably larger than our bull frog, its shape seems to be a medium between the delicate and lengthy form of our bull frog and that of our land frog or toad as they are sometimes called. Like the latter their bodies are covered with little bumps or lumps, elevated above the ordinary surface of the body; I never heard them make any sound or noise (Lewis, Clark, and Members of the Corps of Discovery, 1806).” This learning episode gives children the chance to think about the relationship that both plants and animals have with water. The inside activity will give the children the opportunity to visualize a celery stalk absorbing water. This is something that plants do every day and without this process, they would not survive. The outdoor activity will provide the students with experience thinking about animal habitats and the relationship that animals have with water.


  • 3-4 glass jars or glasses
  • celery stalks
  • food coloring
  • plastic knife (if children are doing the cutting)
  • paper towels
  • camera or cell phone to take pictures


We have been learning that different Native American tribes speak different languages, and by now we know quite a few Native words for water. A long time ago, when different Native American tribes would meet together, they sometimes spoke different languages and had to communicate with hand gestures or symbols in order to understand one another. Use the attached worksheet to teach the students some Native American sign language and symbols that are related to water. Try the sign language gestures with the students. Ask them to come up with their own sign language for words that are related to water. “What gesture would you use to communicate to your friend that you are going fishing, if you could not use your words? What if you wanted to talk about a frog? A cloud? Snow? A rainbow?”

Discovery Journals

Have the learners label one page in their journal as water (pre-­write cutout words if you need to) and the opposite page in their journal as land. Have small cutout pictures of animals or animal stickers. You can also do this with plant pictures or stickers. Give each learner one picture at a time, and ask the group to think about what this living creature’s relationship is with water. Does it belong in the water, on top of the water, beside the water, in the air, or on the land? Discuss this with each picture as the students place them in their journals, and emphasize the discussion about relationships between the water and the living animal or plant that they are sticking in their journals.

Books to Read

  • Native American Sign Language [Book 17] (Olsen, 1998).
  • The Rainbow Fish [Book 18] (Pfister, 1999).
  • One Fish, Two Fish (2007) Lakota One Fish, Two Fish in Dakota Lakota Sioux
  • Book List



0688e706cb13fd4bb7e9e1efa915964eInside Activity

How Plants Absorb Water

Research Question

How do plants absorb water?

This activity allows students to discover that plants absorb water by a process called osmosis (Teaching Tiny Tots, 2013). The concept of osmosis may be too complex to fully understand by this age group. However, this experiment demonstrates the idea that plants do absorb water up into their stems and into their leaves. It is best to start this activity early in the week, so that you can observe and record data throughout the week with the learners.

  • Ask the students what plants need in order to grow? Tell the students that they are going to do an experiment that will help them to identify water inside of plants. Tell them that they will explore the relationship between water and a plant called celery.
  • Give student bunches of celery and ask them to separate out stalks of celery with leaves still on them (lighter stalks will show the water absorption more vibrantly).
  • Measure out 8 oz. of water to put into each glass container (teachers can demonstrate this for students or ask a student to help with this step). Draw a line at the water level on the container with a permanent marker. Have one empty glass container, with no water.
  • Have students help put food coloring into each container with water (10-12 drops each). The color blue shows the water absorption most vibrantly.
  • Place a celery stalk in each container with water, AND in the container without water.
  • Ask children, “What do your predict will happen?” Write two or three predictions down. Point to the words and read them out loud with your students.
  • Take a picture of your experiment to record data on day #1, day #2, day #3, etc. of your experiment.
  • Observe the experiment each day with your children. Look at the photographs from previous days and discuss similarities and differences that they observe. Don’t forget to compare the celery stalks that are in the water with the celery stalk that does not have any water.
  • On the last day of the experiment, ask the students the research question: Do plants absorb water? How do they know? What did they predict in the beginning? What is the conclusion they have come to? What data can they use as evidence to make a conclusion?
  • Ask your learners, “what color is healthy water?” And remind them that it is difficult to observe plants absorbing water out in nature, since water does not normally have a color.

Emerging Learners

Younger or emerging learners will need more support while doing this experiment. Start by making sure that they know what the word absorb means. Ask them, “what do you think the word absorb means?” Tell them that absorb means to soak up, like a sponge. Give them a bowl of water and a sponge, and tell them to absorb the water with the sponge. Then discuss what it means that the celery is absorbing the water. Explain that this is how plants drink water!

Progressive Learners

Learners who are a bit more cognitively advanced can vary the experiment and test to see how much water a celery stalk is able to absorb. Have them set up the experiment so that there are multiple celery stalks (make sure that they take care to make them the same size). Measure the amount of water that is put into each container, in order to test how much water the celery can absorb in 1 day, 2 days, etc.

Helpful Hints

Since this activity takes a few days to get results, it would be helpful have a few celery stalks that have been absorbing colored water for a few days, so that you can observe and discuss them. You can also try different colors of water so that the students can compare. Carnation flowers also work for this activity. After the learners have completed the science activity with the celery or the flowers, take pictures with the camera, print and laminate them so the children can make a sequencing board that you can use to retell the activity.


fb65735a70bf1412e670c3edcde3911bOutside Activity

Frogs and Water

  • Listen to Richard Basch talk about frogs and what they mean to the Chinook culture. He also teaches us the Chinook word for frog. Ask the students to repeat the word for frog. What other sounds can they think of that they have heard frogs make?


  • Next, talk about where frogs live. Where are the many places where a frog might live? Ask the children to think about all of the places where a frog might live. If they need some help, show them some pictures of forests, riverbeds, or lake ecosystems. Give them some prompts such as, in a pond, swamp, deserts, gardens, rain forests, etc. What is the environment like in these places? Is it dry? Is it wet? Is it hot? Or cold?
  • Teach The Speckled Frog Song (Five Speckled Frogs, 2014).


  • Next, watch the following two videos:



  • After watching the videos, think about where animals live, and where animals get water. Where do bears get their water? How do raccoons get water to drink? Where do we get our water?
  • Take a trip to a local water source. If it is possible, take the children to a place along the Lewis and Clark Trail that is also conveniently located near a water source. It can be a river, lake, pond, ocean, etc. Look for animals that live in or near the water. If possible, take large containers with lids along with you, so that you can collect water, plants along the water’s edge, or other specimens. Remember that after you capture them and spend some time looking at them, it is best to let them go back to their natural homes.



  • Pay attention to how much students are enjoying their tasks. Are they laughing? Are they smiling? Are they engaging with one another?
  • While doing the celery experiment, state the directions first and then assess their listening skills by asking them, “What is the next step? What do I do next to set up our experiment?”
  • During circle time, ask students if they can remember the words for water that they have learned over the past few weeks.


Five Speckled Frogs (2014). Learning School Radio: Audio Sources for primary schools. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schoolradio/subjects/earlylearning/nurserysongs/F-J/five_little_speckled_frogs

Lewis, M., Clark, W., and Members of the Corps of Discovery. (2002a). May 30, 1806. In G. Moulton (Ed.),

The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from the University of Nebraska Press / University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries-Electronic Text Center, The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition website: http://lewisandclarkjournals.unl.edu/read/?_xmlsrc=1806-05-30.xml&_xslsrc=LCstyles.xsl

Mallery, G. (2006). Sign Language Among North American Indians. Smithsonian Institution – Bureau of

Ethnology. Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/32938/32938-h/sign.html#sign_tribal

Olsen, M. (1998). Native American Sign Language. Mahwah, New Jersey: Troll Communications.

One Fish, Two Fish (2007) Lakota One Fish, Two Fish in Dakota Lakota Sioux Language Resources. Retrieved from http://www.native-languages.org/lakota_onefish.htm

Pfister, M. (1999). The Rainbow Fish, New York, New York: North-South Books, Inc.

Teaching Tiny Tots (2013). The Celery Experiment and How Plants Absorb Water From Their Roots. Retrieved from: http://www.teaching-tiny-tots.com/toddler-science-celeryexperiment.html#.UjcY3ryE5zA