Plant Growth and Changes – Connect Charter School

Plant Growth and Changes

Flower Pounding in Grade 4
Marla Paxton~ Grade 4 Math and Science

Prep Time – A weekend (with breaks) to treat and prepare fabric
Lesson – Approximately 4-5 classes.

My partner teacher Heather Melville and I wanted to look at the way we took up Plant Growth & Change this year so the grade 4‘s made a lot of noise exploring the parts of a flower.  It all started with a picture book by Dianna Hutts Aston & Sylvia Long, A Seed is Sleepy.  Students looked at how seeds were sleepy, secretive, fruitful, adventurous, inventive, generous, ancient, thirsty, hungry, clever, and even sometimes naked!

Then the pounding began!  Flower Pounding that is 🙂 Students brought in flowers, hammers, cutting boards and wax paper. (We sent home a note with parents asking for students to bring in the materials) They tore apart the flowers, looking at the insides discovering many of the things that we read about in our book.  Some of the conversations that took place began with these types of observations:

“Did you see that my flower has tube as petals? Is that how it catches the rain?”
“My flower has seeds inside seeds inside seeds.”
“Why does a white flower turn blue when it is pounded?”
“What happens when you pound leaves? Can you pound leaves?”

We took them outside to create the flower pounding and they LOVED it! Some wooden cutting boards broke due to uneven surfaces and that didn’t even phase those students. They spent two full classes covering their cloth with flowers, looking at patterns and color changes. Once the cloth was filled students brought their pounding inside to dry.

Overnight the cloths dried and then the outlining began. Each student was given one fine tipped Sharpie to use and then we spoke to students about the reason behind the tracing. What parts did they want to bring forward? This was the part that took the longest! Some students were quick to trace and needed some instructions about pulling their black lines through the color blends in more detail, while others struggled with not tracing too small. We left the final decision up to our students around when they were done as they were the artist, not us.

In Heather’s class students reflected on the following questions while they were outlining their flower pounding. My class reflected after their pounding was completed. You could do it either way.

1) What were some of the observations that you made when you were pounding flowers?
2)  What was the most interesting thing you noticed about your flower?
3)  Describe where you found the seeds in 3 of your flowers.
4) Tell me something you learned about flowers and their parts that you didn’t know before!

The flower poundings were displayed in our hallways and have created some great conversations between grades. Some of the grade 5’s and 6’s have even come in to ask for tips on how they can do it at home. One of my neatest memories of this lesson was hearing one of my grade 4’s explain the parts of a flower to a grade 6 student and explaining where he found the seeds!

If you are interested in trying this in your own classroom here are the specifics of what you need to know:

Materials Needed:
Collection of Fresh Flowers/Leaves
Wax or Parchment Paper
Alum (can be found in the spice aisle in any grocery store)
100% Cotton Cloth (Muslin preferred)
     *I treated 9m of fabric for 100 students and went with a    30cmx30cm square
     *Fabricland gave me a 20% discount when i mentioned I was a teacher!
Washing Soda
Wooden Cutting Board
Masking Tape

Preparing the Fabric:
1) Prewash your fabric to remove the sizing, using regular laundry detergent and 2 tablespoons of washing soda. [If you can’t find washing soda you can bake baking soda in the oven at 400F until is changes form (approx. 2hrs)]
Rinse several times to ensure that all the washing soda is rinsed out. Note: Do not cut material prior to washing because it will fray in the machine.
2) Soak the fabric in a bucket/sink/tub (depending on how much) for two hours, in a mixture of 2 cups of hot water, and 1 cup alum, per yard of fabric.
3.) Add 1 tsp washing soda in ó cup hot water (dissolve in the hot water before adding to the material) per yard. Let this set overnight (at least 8 hours).
4.) Wring out the fabric, and let it dry naturally. DO NOT RINSE OUT. Your fabric can now be ironed and cut into whatever size you would like to work with.


  1. Students should place their cutting board down on a flat surface. If you can try and get a soft surface underneath to absorb the pounding. Grass works better than cement!
  2. Then lay the wax paper (or parchment paper) over top of the cutting board.
  3. Students should lay the flower onto the paper and then place their material over top.
  4. You will use the hammer to pound the material with the flower/leaf underneath and the color will be absorbed into the cloth. Repeat this step until your are satisfied with your creation!
  5. Once they have finished take the left over flower pieces and add to any compost bin or share with others if there is still color left in them.
  6. You will need to lay your cloth flat to dry and use the masking tape to label whose piece belongs to who. Once the material is dry the masking tape can be placed onto the cloth directly. Any extra rough pieces on your material you can scrap off with your fingernails or rub with your hands. 
  7. To heat set the print lay some paper over your material and iron on top of the paper. You can “pop” the colors by outlining the prints in black sharpies.

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