Grade Level
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12


1 hour 30 minutes


Earth Science

  • Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving, and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.

  • Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.

  • – Asking Questions and Defining Problems
    – Developing and Using Models
    – Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
    – Analyzing and Interpreting Data
    – Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
    – Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
    – Engaging in Argument from Evidence
    – Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information







Plant bulbs are amazing containers! They store all the parts of a plant as well as the energy to help it grow when the conditions are just right! Can we trick a bulb into thinking it is time to bloom? In this activity, students customize a see-through planter to view how a bulb changes and grows as it blooms and conduct experiments based on the plant’s needs to produce different growing results.


Thematic Questions:

  • What is a plant bulb and what is stored inside of it? 
  • Can we alter a plant bulb’s dormancy by changing the conditions? What other conditions can we alter to get different growing results?


Students will…

  • Create small customized container gardens. 
  • Identify the different parts of a flowering plant (Roots, bulb, stem, leaves, and flower).
  • Conduct experiments about the requirements of a plant for its growth: air, light, water, nutrients, space, and temperature.
  • Make observations and record data measurements. 
  • Produce a plant and container that can be used to beautify community spaces.


ISTE Standards for Students 
  1. Empowered Learner– Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving, and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.
  2. Innovative Designer– Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.
NGSS Science & Engineering Practices 
  1. Planning and carrying out investigations
  2. Analyzing and interpreting data


  • Large Planter:
  • Small Planter:
  • Acrylic glue
  • Rulers
  • Cloth or paper tape measure
  • Small scale
  • Thermometer
  • Measuring cup
  • Ruler 
  • Index cards
  • Bulbs: crocus, grape hyacinths, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, paperwhites, amaryllis, iris
  • Stone materials: pea gravel, river rock, crushed brick, sea glass chips, marbles
  • Optional: Paint or paint pens 
  • Optional: Magnifying glasses

Catalog Designs


Lesson Outline:

Get Ready:

  1. This activity will require some preparation in advance. Bulbs can be purchased pre-chilled but different bulbs require different amounts of pre-chilling approximately 6-10 weeks depending on the bulb. Amaryllis and paperwhites do not need to be pre-chilled.
  2. Read through the activity details to review the steps for completing the activity. 
  3. Sometimes, more complex designs require different materials or multiple sheets of material. They will also show in your Dashboard as a few separate prints. For these designs, just print them in order and follow any instructions in the design details window. 
    • The Large Clear Planter with Raised Stand design has 3 Prints:
      • (1. Thick Plywood) Large Clear Planter with Raised Stand
      • (2. Thick Acrylic) Large Clear Planter with Raised Stand
      • (3. Thick Acrylic) Large Clear Planter with Raised Stand
    • The Small Clear Planter with Raised Stand has 2 Prints:
      • (1. Thick Plywood) Small Clear Planter with Raised Stand
      • (2. Thick Acrylic) Small Clear Planter with Raised Stand
  4. Gather all of the materials needed to print. 
  5. You can adapt the activity accordingly to be age-appropriate. For example, younger students will need adult help using the Glowforge app and assembling the planter and stand.
  6. Print a large planter for the control group of bulbs. Students will be printing the small planter for their group.
  7. Have extra bulbs available for dissection and exploration. These can be pre-cut in half for younger students.
  8. Use this site for reference about bulb anatomy and vocabulary.

Production Time:


  • Large – 28 minutes
  • Small –  16 minutes


  • Large – 20 minutes
  • Small – 20 minutes


Use this optional rubric for student self-reflection or formative feedback throughout the See Through Gardening experience.

Lesson Instructions

Section 1 – Plan:

  1. Ask: “Have you ever planted a bulb?” Tell students that bulbs are planted in the ground in the fall to grow and blossom in the spring  
  2. Have students form small groups. Offer each group a bulb, cut in half lengthwise, to dissect and explore. Have students draw and write what they see. For optional fun, provide a magnifying glass to each group so they take a closer look at the bulb’s contents.
  3. Ask: “How would you describe the inside of a bulb?” Give students time to think and time to share their ideas with others. 
  4. Introduce vocabulary associated with a bulb as students notice its parts and have them label their drawings. You can share this resource on bulbs from the University of Florida, University of Kentucky, and Texas A&M for more reference, exploration, and vocabulary.
    • Scales: the thick layers similar to an onion. 
    • Flower bud: that there is a flower bud in the center.
    • Tunic: a papery outer layer of protection for the scales.
    • Basal Stem: compressed stem that connects the flower, scales, and roots.
    • Roots toward the bottom of the bulb. Note they may be stubby nubs or roots that are starting to grow out.
  5. Ask: “Why do you think the bulb’s scales are so thick?” and “What do you think they provide through the winter?” Some observations might include food, water, or protection from the elements. Explain that these are all supports for the plant over the winter, or its dormancy period.
  6. Tell students that they are going to trick the bulbs into thinking that it is spring and time to grow. This is called “forcing the bulb” and gardeners do it to enjoy flowers in the winter. In addition to growing flowers, tell them they will be conducting experiments on their bulbs. 
  7. Have groups discuss what a plant needs to grow. Encourage students to consider elements like water, light, and temperature that they can easily manipulate. 
  8. Explain to students that they will use a control group, a standard to which comparisons are made, for their experiments. For this activity, the control group will be in the large planter receiving the ideal conditions for the bulb type and can be used by the whole class. 
  9. Have the students record data and observations about the control group of bulbs. Observations should include:
    • The condition of the bulbs;
    • Each bulb’s size;
    • Each bulb’s weight; and, 
    • A drawing of each control bulb. 
  10. Have groups come up with a hypothesis for their bulbs based on manipulating one of the elements: water, light, or temperature. They should start with a question like “What would happen if…” and make a prediction about the outcome. Encourage groups to write these hypotheses and predictions on index cards and place them with their planter when they start their experiment.
  11. Have groups conduct an experiment on plant needs. Give each group 2-3 bulbs for their container. Have them record their observations and data of their bulbs. Observations should include:
    • The condition of the bulbs;
    • Each bulb’s size;
    • Each bulb’s weight; and, 
    • A drawing of each control bulb.

Section 2 – Customize and Create:

  1. In order to watch the bulbs change and grow, tell students they are going to customize a see-through planter for their bulbs. Show them the example planter.
  2. Open the design files for the Small Clear Planter with Raised Stand in the Glowforge app. Students will need to open the file that corresponds with their customizations (i.e., the plywood plant stand or the sidewalls of the acrylic pot). There are two designs associated with this print.
  3. On design file (2. Thick Acrylic) Small Clear Planter with Raised Stand, have students delete the holes from the bottom of the planter.
  4. Using Plus + and choosing the Add Artwork option add information about the experiment on the side of the planter or stand.  
  5. Consider having students add graduation marks to the sides of the planter for quick visual observations of growth. Click the Plus + and choose the Add Artwork option. Search for a line and choose a thick option. In the app, line up the side of the planter with the ruler on the left. Copy and paste the line for each inch and half-inch mark.     
  6. Additional designs can be added to the planter to personalize it. Add symbols, text, and other artwork to the design by clicking the Plus + and choosing the Add Artwork option. Students can use graphics and fonts from the Glowforge library. The artwork must be engraved onto the acrylic to be seen. 
  7. Have students print their designs. Optional: Students can use paint pens to add color and make any engravings stand out on the clear acrylic.
  8. Assemble the planter and stand according to the directions in the Glowforge app. 

Section 3 – Use:

To force bulbs with rocks or other material in the bottom, have students:

  1. Set bulbs into the rock, glass, or marble base material with a gentle push, then add a little of the material around each bulb to keep them sitting upright. Don’t cover the bulbs as their roots will work into the base material and hold them steady.
  2. Place their bulbs close but not touching to improve air movement and prevent mold from forming.
  3. Build-up material around the bulb to keep it stable, as the plants may fall over if they have vigorous root systems.
  4. Check and top-off the water as it evaporates over time, but remember to keep the water level just below the bottom of the bulbs to prevent rot.

To conduct growing experiments, have students:

  1. Apply their experiment. They may choose to place the plant in or out of light, near a heater or away from a heat source, or add or restrict water as necessary. Have students record the conditions below daily. 
    • Temperature
    • Light conditions
    • Amount of water added
  2. Record their observations of their bulbs as well as the control group over the next 4-6 weeks. Students should not weigh or measure the width of the bulb again until it is wilted and dormant because disrupting the roots will affect the experiment. They can record the growth of the plant on a chart.
  3. Write up their observations in a lab report. Encourage students to reflect on their experiments using questions such as:
    • How did your manipulation affect the growth of their bulb compared to the control group? 
    • What were you able to prove with your hypothesis? 
    • What new questions do you have based on the results?

Reflection Questions:

Help students consider…

  • How did your changes to the plant’s requirements change its growth compared to the control?
  • What were some of the most interesting discoveries you made while working on this project?

Pro Tips:

  • Some bulbs will require more or less pre-chilling to force them out. Take this into consideration when selecting bulbs. White Flower Farm blog has some good reference information to use when selecting bulbs. 
  • Buy bulbs at the end of the season in the fall and store them in a cool dark place or a refrigerator until ready for this activity.
  • Using oil-based paint pens allows students to highlight and add color to their design on the acrylic. Be sure to let the paint completely dry before adding additional layers. 
  • This activity can be used across multiple grade levels in science units, as well as a fundraiser or civic engagement activity. 


  • What alternatives do we have to grow food when we are in a nutrient-deprived soil environment? Explore options to create a hydroponic or aquaponic garden! Modify the container to be watertight by removing the drainage holes and adding sealant around the seams. Create a top to hold the net pots. Note: Additional items would be required, for example, an air pump, a grow light, fish for aquaponics, and other tools.
  • How might we organize our classrooms or schools to be more efficient? Use these planters to organize books, files, or classroom supplies. Use these designs with the Operation Organization activity for even more organizing options!


  • Use your Glowforge to further customize indoor gardens. Some plants need additional supports, so create things like custom trellis supports using the shape tool in the app and print them to fit your planter. Or, to make identification easier, design custom plant stakes using the Glowforge tutorial “Make a Cake Topper from Scratch.”
  • Conduct a soil experiment. Print several small planters. Have students add different types of soil: nutrient-rich, compost, sandy or rocky soil, or clay soil, and dirt to the planters. Run water through the samples and see how fast or slow the water drains, what comes out with the water, and compare the quality of the waters. Explore how nutrient-rich soils conserve and filter water.

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