With Liberty and Top Soil for All

6, 7, 8

Learners will describe the essential elements of life and democracy. They will explain that without the proper materials, plants are unable to grow and thrive; without an active citizenry, democracy cannot grow and prosper.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • explain that plants need water, soil and light in order to make the food energy necessary to grow and thrive.
  • use the scientific method in experimenting with controlled variables.
  • compare factors necessary for plants to thrive with core democratic values that are necessary for democracy to flourish.
  • Learner copies of Data Collection Sheet (Handout One)
  • Plants
  • Cardboard or aluminum foil
  • Water, potting soil
  • Scissors, paper clips
  • Paper cups


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask learners to list all of the materials necessary to make a plant flourish. Have them reflect on the factors that sustain democracy and compare that list to the life of the living plant. Ask the learners to ponder what would happen if one variable was taken away. Which would make the greatest impact on the flourishing of the plant?


  2. Let learners select one variable to explore: sunlight, soil or water. Distribute a Data Collection Sheet (Handout One) to each learner.

  3. Have learners form cooperative groups based on which variable they wish to explore. Make sure there are three groups of learners—soil, water and sunlight. Each group will use one plant for their experiment.

  4. For the soil group, learners will be testing the variable of soil. Learners will remove the plant from the soil, shake off any soil that may stick to the roots and then place it in a cup with water. Once this is done they will place the plant under a growing light. During the four days the soil group will continue to water the plant.

  5. Learners in the water group will be testing the variable of water. They will place the plant in soil and place the plant under the growing light. This group will not water the plant during the four day period.

  6. Learners in the sunlight group will be testing the variable of sunlight. They will place the plant in soil and water the plant daily. Before placing the plant under the grow light, they will cover two leaves with aluminum foil by cutting out a geometric shape (triangle, circle, square) and paper clipping it to the plant leaf. Once the leaves have been covered, the plant should be placed under the grow light.

  7. While setting up their plant experiment, the learners should fill out the Data Collection Sheet.

  8. After Day Four, jigsaw learners from each group and have them discuss their findings and conclusions. Compare and contrast these conclusions to the Core Democratic Values that are necessary for a democracy to flourish. Imagine a scenario of what will happen to a democratic society which is not "nourished" by its citizens.

  9. In a whole class discussion, hypothesize what might happen to a democracy if it were denied each of these three Core Democratic Values: popular sovereignty, common good, and justice. Create a whole class graphic organizer to show these hypotheses.


The Data Collection Sheet (Handout One) will be used as an assessment of learning.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Describe how different needs are met in different ways by government, business, civil society, and family.