Science Activity: Water beads

November 29, 2016 | 11:11 am


This fun water bead activity is a great way to introduce the three essential plant nutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphate (P) and potassium (K). As students put the various beads together, they will have a better understanding of what plants need to grow. Also, use Nutrients for Life’s free elementary curriculum, Nourishing the Planet in the 21st Century, to enrich the lesson.


Grade Levels: 1 to 6 (can be used as a STEM activity for middle and high school teachers using the graphs starting on page 152 in Nourishing the Planet in the 21st Century! )
Length: 15 minutes/30 minutes when turned into a STEM activity
Group size: This activity works well in both small group and large settings

Objective: Students will be able to recall what conditions plants need to grow, such as plant nutrients (in the soil), sunlight, water, and air.

Materials needed: (One per student)

Note: We purchased water beads on Amazon (presoak beads the day before the activity)

Small jewel zipper closed bags

Yellow water beads

Blue water beads

Clear water beads

Black or brown water beads

Green water beads

Pink water beads

Purple water beads

Seeds (preferably a large seed such as corn or pumpkin that germinates quickly)

8 small bowls to hold water  beads and seeds

Procedure:  Discuss what plants need to grow and the seed germination.  Place each bead in the zipper bag, while reviewing what each bead represents.

1 Yellow water bead = Sun – Plants use the sun for energy.image4

1 Blue water bead = Water – Plants need water to grow.

1 Clear water bead = Air – Plants need air for photosynthesis.

1 Black water bead = Soil – Soil holds the roots and the nutrients the plants need for food.

1 Green water bead = Nitrogen – Nitrogen makes the plant green and healthy.

1 Purple water bead = Phosphorus – Phosphorus helps the plant have healthy roots.

1 Pink water bead  = Potassium – Potassium helps protect the plant form disease and in developing fruits/flowers in the plant.

Place 1 seed in the bag.

Farmers help to protect the environment by testing their soils to learn if the soil contains the right amount of nutrients. If nutrients are missing, the farmer will add more by adding fertilizer. The three main nutrients needed for the plant to grow are N, P, and K. With older students, a discussion can be led of how plants do not technically need soil to grow, as seen with air plants and hydroponic setups, but simply the essential plant nutrients (N-P-K). The seed should begin to germinate in 1 week. Students should keep their seed placed in a warm, sunny place.