DIY Science: Light Maze

With spring in full swing, we thought it was a good time to shine some light on an experiment involving plants! Today we are making a plant maze!

For this project you will need:

  • Shoebox with a lid
  • Several pieces of cardboard
  • Extra cardboard
  • Bean sprout, or a seed (corn and beans work really well for this)
  • Scissors
  • Masking Tape
  • Damp soil
  • Flowerpot or cup small enough to fit in the shoebox when you close the lid

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Start this experiment by cutting a small round hole, about the size of a quarter, at one end (one of the short sides) of a shoebox.

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Next, cut  several pieces of cardboard, and tape them to the inside of the box, creating a winding path through the inside of the box. The pieces should be the same depth as the shoebox, but slightly shorter in width. You only want the light to pass through narrow openings you create with the gaps between the cardboard “maze”. Any other stray light may confuse your plant. Use plenty of tape to block out light in the cracks.

Put the seed or sprout into the flower pot, and cover it with moist soil. Water well, but do not flood the seed.

Place the flowerpot on the opposite end of the shoebox, away from the hole. Cover the shoebox with the lid and put it in a sunny place, with the hole facing the light.

DSC_1376

Finally, close the lid and set your shoe box in a sunny area. Make sure to check on your plant’s progress every few days to record what happens!

What’s going on?

Plants need light, water and carbon dioxide to produce food. When you place obstacles in the sprout’s way, it will find a way around the obstacle (in this case cardboard) to find the light, even without muscles!  The process of growing towards the light is called phototropism, and is controlled by a plant hormone known as auxin. The hormone auxin is formed in the top of a plant and then spreads itself out evenly into all the cells of the plant. This hormone tells plant cells to grow longer. However, if the light does not come from above, auxin will move toward the side that is not lit. This hormone buildup will result in the plant bending toward the light, as you will see from your experiment.

Remember, it is important to note that an experiment uses a variable (something that changes) to answer a question. To turn this demonstration into an experiment, you have to change something! Check out these questions to get you started:

  • Will different plants grow at the same rate in the same conditions?
  • Does the brightness of the light going into the box make a difference in how fast the plant grows?
  • How tight a turn can a plant make?
  • How many turns can a plant make?
  • Can you make your plant grow down?

Give it a try and let us know how your experiment turned out on our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter pages using the hashtag #gscscience!

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About greensborosciencecenter

The Greensboro Science Center offers three fascinating attractions in one wild destination! We are the only facility in North Carolina that offers an aquarium, museum, and zoo. Spend the day with us and come nose to beak with playful penguins, get eye to eye with awesome otters, explore the human body, experience Mother Nature’s fury and fun, and encounter exotic animals like tigers, meerkats, and lemurs!

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