New Hampshire Agriculture in the Classroom

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Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix

Lesson Plan

How to Grow a Monster: The Needs of a Zucchini Plant

Grade Level
K - 2

Students read How to Grow a Monster, describe the needs of a zucchini plant, identify the structure and function of zucchini plant parts, grow classroom zucchini plants, and experiment with different environments and growing conditions. Grades K-2

Estimated Time
1-2 hours, plus observation time for seedling and plant growth.
Materials Needed


Activity 1: How to Grow a Monster (In the Right Environment)

  • How to Grow a Monster by Kiki Thorpe

Activity 2: How to Draw a Monster: The Structure and Function of Plant Parts

  • Zucchini Slide Deck (slide 3)
  • How to Draw a Monster Handout
  • Coloring materials (crayons, colored pencils, etc.)

Activity 3:

  • Plastic cups/planting containers (1 per student, plus 3 classroom experiments)
  • Potting soil
  • Zucchini seeds (1 per student, plus 3 classroom experiments)
  • My Zucchini Monster Journal

fruit: the part of a plant that develops from the flower and contains the seeds of the plant

ovary: the enlarged basal portion of the female flower

pollen: the fine, powder-like material produced by the anthers of flowering plants

pollination: the transfer of pollen from the anther to the stigma of a plant; the spreading of pollen by insects, birds, bats, and the wind between flowering plants

summer squash: a squash that is harvested when immature and eaten before the seeds and rind have hardened

vegetable: any edible part of a plant that does not contain seeds

Did You Know?
  • The longest zucchini ever grown was over 8 feet long and was grown in Canada in 2014.
  • The flower on a zucchini plant is edible.
  • The first records of zucchinis in the United States date back to the 1920s, which were brought here by Italian immigrants.
Background Agricultural Connections

It was in Italy that "zucchinos," or "little squash" were first grown and cultivated. It is believed that Italian immigrants first brought zucchini to the United States in the 1920s. Zucchini is a low-calorie summer squash that is filled with nutrients. It is considered a summer squash due to its thin and tender skin, unlike pumpkins which are a winter squash. Although zucchini has a savory flavor and is often mistaken for a vegetable, it is classified as a fruit. This is because zucchini—and other fruits—come from a flowering plant and contain seeds.

Zucchini plants are well-known for their prolific production. What makes zucchini plants so easy to grow? Zucchini plants flower more than any other plant, and their large, bright yellow flowers are critical to fruit production. Zucchini plants contain both male and female flowers. The male flowers contain pollen and have a short stem. The female flowers contain a zucchini-like structure at the base which is the ovary that will eventually develop into the fruit. Normally bees assist with pollination and will transfer pollen from the male flower to the female flower. It is also possible to pollinate zucchini plants by hand with a cotton swab by collecting pollen on the cotton and rubbing it on the stamen of the female flowers. 

Zucchini plants can grow in almost any type of soil and can thrive with minimal care. Most fruit-bearing plants do best in locations that receive full sun all day, or at least 6 to 8 hours of sun each day. Zucchini production is also considered cyclical, which means the more zucchini you pick and harvest, the more fruit your plant will produce. A well-maintained plant that is regularly harvested will produce on average 6 to 10 pounds of zucchini in one growing season. Even though zucchini can grow to be very large, it is best to pick zucchini when the fruit is small (about 6-8 inches) with a bright and rich color.

  1. Provide each student with a How to Draw a Monster Handout and coloring materials. 
  2. Explain that you'd like each of them to draw and color a monster on the left side of the page using the clues and characteristics from the following list:
    1. Your monster must be green.
    2. Your monster must wear yellow flowers.
    3. Your monster likes the sun.
    4. Your monster's favorite drink is water.
  3. Give the students enough time to finish their pictures.
  4. Explain that you are going to show them a picture of your monster and ask them to compare their own pictures to yours. 
  5. Display slides 1 and 2 from the Zucchini Slide Deck.
  6. Ask the students, "Is this a monster? What is it?"
  7. Ask, "How can a zucchini be compared to their monsters?" 
  8. Explain to the students that they are going to learn about a green "monster" that can be grown in gardens.
Explore and Explain

Activity 1: How to Grow a Monster (In the Right Environment)

  1. Ask the students, "What is an environment?"
  2. Explain that an environment is the surroundings or conditions where people, animals, or plants live. Give examples of various environments.
  3. Ask the students, "Why is an environment important for plants?"
  4. Explain that you are going to read a book about growing a "monster." 
  5. Instruct the students to pay close attention to the environment needed to grow a zucchini.
  6. Read the story How to Grow a Monster by Kiki Thorpe.
  7. As you read the story, stop and compare the characteristics of the zucchini plant to the students' monsters. (Green in color, yellow flower, likes the sun and water, etc.)
  8. After completing the book, ask the students, "What kind of environment did Kara and Gabe provide for the zucchinis?"
  9. As a class, make a list describing the growing environment from the book:
    1. The zucchinis were planted in a sunny area.
    2. The zucchini plants were thinned out, which gave them room to grow big.
    3. Kara and Gabe picked the small zucchinis, which stimulated more growth.
    4. They watered the zucchini plant weekly; sometimes more if it was really hot.
    5. Gabe managed pests and bugs by picking them off plants and planting marigolds around the zucchini plants.
  10. Ask the students, "Do all plants need the same exact environment as zucchini plants?" (No, some may require more/less sunlight, more/less water, different temperatures/climate, etc.)

Activity 2: How to Draw a Monster: The Structure and Function of Plant Parts

  1. Using the Zucchini Slide Deck, display the first slide of zucchini images and ask the students to identify the different parts of the plant.
  2. Point out each of the parts on the image:
    • Yellow flower (male)
    • Yellow flower (female)
    • Leaves
    • Fruit
    • Seeds
    • Stem
  3. Display the Parts of a Zucchini image on the slide deck (slide 3).
  4. Ask the students to draw a new "monster" (zucchini plant) on the right side of their How to Draw a Monster Handout. Allow them to use the images on the board for reference. They may draw all the parts on one plant, or individually like the parts displayed. This zucchini monster should include the following plant parts:
    1. A green zucchini (fruit)
    2. Female flower
    3. Male flower
    4. Leaves
    5. Stem
    6. Seeds
  5. Review the parts of the zucchini plant with the students. Ask the following questions to lead a discussion:
    1. Why do zucchini plants need seeds?
    2. Why do plants need flowers?
    3. Do all plants have flowers?
    4. What other plants produce a bright yellow flower? (Pumpkins, squash, other varieties of zucchinis)
    5. Why do plants need leaves?
    6. How can you tell if a food is a fruit or vegetable?

Activity 3: Let's Grow a Monster!

  1. Supply each student with a cup/container, potting soil, and a zucchini seed. (Clear cups may allow students to see root development.)
  2. Instruct the students to plant each seed about 1/2" below the surface.
  3. Assist the students with watering their seeds. The soil should be kept moist for germination to occur.
  4. Instruct them to write their names on their own cup.
  5. Plant three classroom zucchini seeds. These seeds will have their growing environments altered.
  6. Explain to the students that their personal zucchini seeds will be placed in a warm area and will receive the correct amount of moisture in order to germinate or sprout. Explain that their zucchinis are called the "control group" of the science experiment—they will be used as a comparison for the other three plants.
  7. Tell the students that they will change the environment of the three classroom zucchini seeds.
    • Classroom Zucchini #2: Water the seed and keep the soil moist. Place in a dark room or put a dark/black box over the cup. Ask the students to hypothesize what will happen if the seed is in the dark. (Students may observe that seeds will germinate in the dark but will eventually need light to turn green and photosynthesize.)
    • Classroom Zucchini #3: Place the seed in dry soil and do not water. Ask the students to hypothesize what will happen if a seed is in dry soil.
    • Classroom Zucchini #4: Water the seed and keep the soil moist. Place the seed in a cold environment such as a refrigerator. Ask the students to hypothesize what will happen to the seed in a cold environment.
  8. List the students' hypotheses on the board.
  9. On the first page of their My Zucchini Monster Journal, instruct the students to describe the environment of each seed.
  10. Determine how often students should make observations in their journals—every day, every other day, twice a week, etc. Students should describe what they see and illustrate what they see in each cup.
  11. Over the next few weeks, allow the students to track the growth and progress of each plant. If possible, continue to grow the class zucchinis and transplant to a school garden or area outside, weather permitting. See if your students can grow a monster! (Note: If zucchinis continue to grow indoors—under grow lights or in a greenhouse—it is possible to pollinate zucchini plants by hand.)
  12. Discuss the needs of a zucchini plant with the class.
  • Make a zucchini recipe and allow the students to taste test.
  • Watch a video of author Katherine Pryor reading her book Zora's Zucchini.

After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:

  • Zucchini plants are flowering plants.
  • Zucchini plants have seeds, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruit.
  • Zucchini plants need light, water, and a warm environment.
Bekka Israelsen
Utah Agriculture in the Classroom
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