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Lucky Science: Potatoes

Few things are as synonymous with Ireland as the potato. They're a staple in most kitchens and they can also be a great learning tool.

What you need:

  • Potato (the older the better). Look for one that's already started sprouting or has several eyes (bumps that show where the potato is about to sprout).
  • 4 toothpicks
  • Wide-mouthed watertight container. (Choose a clear glass jar so your children can spot the first rootlets growing.)

Sometimes potatoes from the supermarket have been sprayed with a substance to keep them from sprouting. Scrub your potato well to make sure it will sprout.

Stick four toothpicks around the middle of the potato. The toothpicks should be placed equal distance around the potato, like the spikes of a bicycle wheel. The toothpicks will act as the supports you need to suspend the potato on the rim of the jar.

Fill the jar with enough water so that the bottom third of the potato is submerged. There need to be some eyes beneath the water.

photo source

Place the jar in a sunny spot and wait.

As days pass, change or add water as needed. Don't let the water get cloudy.

In a few days, you'll notice white, stringy roots starting to grow from the bottom of the potato. In two or three weeks, stems and leaves will sprout from the top. Remember to keep the potato watered.

Potato sprouts grow quickly, but they're also fragile. Consider giving your vines a stake or trellis to climb.

photo source

Help your child observe and record the changes in the potato over time. Measure the length of the vines and count the number of leaves.

Move your potato to a larger jar if it becomes too big for its first home. After about a month, you can transfer it to a small pot and watch it grow even more.

A sweet potato has lovely purpley leaves and can be sprouted using the same method.

Caution: potatoes belong to the same family as nightshade and their leaves are poisonous. Keep young children well away from this experiment!

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After a combined 14 years in 2nd grade, sisters Heidi & Emily are passionate about helping simplify life for other teachers!

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