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Celery Microclimate Experiment

Plants and animals respond to the climate that surrounds them. A "microclimate" is created by small, local differences in the climate of a place. (Microclimates are defined and explored in this lesson.) People can adjust to the climate by choosing clothing to keep us at a comfortable temperature. Plants respond differently to the climate where they are growing. Students will use an inquiry approach to explore how temperature and the rate of liquid uptake in the celery plant can lead them to understanding plant growth in different microclimates.

4 thermometers
4 jars
4 freshly cut celery stalks
potato peeler
red food coloring
cool water

1. Ask students to recall places in their homes where the temperature is the warmest and the coolest. Discuss what might cause the temperature differences. These places can be called microclimates inside your house. How do the different temperatures affect the people or things?

2. Display some of the materials (celery and colored water) to the class. Ask how these items could be used to study the effects different microclimates might have on plants. List ideas on overhead or board. Help direct students to the concept of liquid uptake in the celery stalk. Together design an experiment or set of experiments to explore how colored liquids can be used to teach us about how plants adjust to microclimates. Read further for more ideas, or design your own experiment.

3. Locate microclimates in your classroom/school. Where are the coldest and the warmest places? Brainstorm a list of places you could test the temperatures. Find 4 locations if you can.
Test your ideas by placing a thermometer in each location and check the temperatures a few times during the day. Experiment until you have the biggest difference between cold and warm with variations in between.

4. Choose the microclimates where you will carry out your experiments.

5. Create a chart to record your data. Across the top of the chart, head columns with the numbered site and the temperature you recorded at each site. Label the rows something like, "Height of red column at time intervals." Decide on the time interval to check the height of the colored column in the celery stalk. Give the chart a title.

6. Set up your experiment: Mix a dark solution of cool water and food coloring. Place some of the colored solution into each of 4 jars that are labeled 1-4. Make a clean cut on the base of the celery stalk. Experiment with a potato peeler to create a window to better see the "strings" or vascular bundles. Insert the stalk of celery, large end down, into each jar of solution. Place each jar into the site you have chosen for it.

Recording your data:
Divide your class into teams for recording the height of the color column at the given time intervals. Come together as a class to record and discuss your results.

Discussion and Questions:
1. Does temperature affect uptake of solutions in celery stalks?

2. Can you make a statement about this phenomenon?

3. If temperature can influence the uptake of a liquid, can you think of other factors that might also influence plants? Make a list of the factors. How would each of them influence plants?

4. How could different microclimates outside affect the plants in them? Could you design an experiment that could test your ideas?

5. Can you graph the results of this experiment?

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