In this lesson students will use thermometers to measure soil temperature and use the information to determine if the soil is warm enough to support rapid, average or minimal plant growth. Students will relate seasons and weather to changes in soil temperature, recognizing that these changes affect plant growth.

Students will then learn about one structure humans developed to change their local environmental conditions to grow plants in the winter time, the greenhouse! Students will engineer their own prototypes of a greenhouse to modify soil temperature and growing conditions, monitoring their greenhouse over time.

Why would farmers want to create a blanket for their crops? What are the benefits? How does it work? Let’s try it!


Lesson Grades Resources Standards
Measuring Soil Temperature 2-8 Discussion, Activity NGSS K-LS1-1 
Engineering Mini Greenhouses K-8 Activity NGSS 2-LS4-1 
NGSS 3-LS4-3 
NGSS 3-ESS2-1 
NGSS 3-ESS3-1 
NGSS 4-ESS3-2 
NGSS 5-ESS2-1 
NGSS 5-ESS3-1 


Connecting CCCs and SEPs

  • How can we model how the structures of a greenhouse work? (Structure and Function; Developing and Using Models)
  • What variables could we change to find out how the function of the greenhouse is affected? How could we change the structure of the greenhouse to benefit plants in the summer time? (Structure and Function; Planning and Carrying out Investigations)
  • What is the evidence for how the structure supports the function of the greenhouse? What are three things you can measure as evidence to see if the structure of your mini greenhouse causes a difference in plant growth? (Structure and Function; Cause and Effect; Engage in Argument from Evidence)
  • How does this system work? How does this system solve a problem? (Systems; Asking Questions and Defining Problems)
  • What does this cause and effect relationship of soil temperature and seed germination help to explain? Will growing seeds in a greenhouse during winter cause the desired effect of seed germination and plant survival? (Cause and Effect; Construct Explanations and Design Solutions)

Tips and caveats

  • This lesson can be done at different times of year–in some climates soil temperature will vary most in the fall and spring when day and night temperatures are most different


Thank you One Cool Earth!

The lessons and resources for this topic have been adapted from the Earth Genius curriculum developed by One Cool Earth, a California 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to bringing garden education to students.

What’s next?