Less than three decades ago, this one feature of plant life once came near "gobbling up" all of nature-study, and yet it is merely an incident in the growth of the plant. To sprout seeds is absurd as an object in itself; it is incidental as is the breaking of the egg-shell to the study of the chicken. The peeping into a seed like a bean or a pea, to see that the plant is really there, with its lunch put up by its mother packed all around it, is interesting to the child. To watch the little plant develop, to study its seed-leaves and what becomes of them, to know that they give the plant its first food and to know how a young plant looks and acts, are all items of legitimate interest in the study of the life of a plant; in fact the struggle of the little plant to get free from its seed-coats may be a truly dramatic story. (See "First Lessons with Plants," Bailey, page 79). But to regard this feature as the chief object of planting seed is manifestly absurd.
Egg-shell experiment farm. The plants from left to right are: cabbage, field corn, popcorn, wheat, buckwheat.
The object of planting any seed should be to rear a plant which shall fulfill its whole duty and produce other seed. The following observations regarding the germination of seeds should be made while the children are eagerly watching the coming of the plants in their gardens or window-boxes:
1. Which comes out of the seed first, the root or the leaf? Which way does the root always grow, up or down? Which way do the leaves always grow, no matter which side up the seed is planted?
2. How do the seed-leaves try to get out of the seed-coat, or shell? How do the seed-leaves differ in form from the leaves which come later? What becomes of the seed-leaves after the plant begins to grow?
References—First Lessons with Plants, L. H. Bailey; First Lessons in Plant Life, Atkinson; Plants and their Children, Dana; Plants, Coulter; How Plants Grow, Gray; How Plants Behave, Gray.