Classroom Activity: Nutrient Absorption in Plants

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March 5, 2018

Classroom Activity: Nutrient Absorption in Plants


The following activity can be found in the Second Grade Flowering Plants module from NICERC’s STEAM Fundamentals second grade curriculum.


Sometimes a concept of lesson can be difficult for students to visualize or relate to. Simple, hands-on activities can help bridge the gap between life experiences and the hypothetical. Students do not have to picture an example in their minds since they are creating one themselves. The activity below demonstrates how absorption works. At this point in the Second Grade Flower Plants module, students are learning about plant roots and how they absorb water and nutrients from the soil. The coffee filter will absorb water that is gently sprayed on it while the marker ink illustrates how minerals and nutrients are carried with the water as it is absorbed into the roots of plants.

This activity helps students visualize the movement of water and nutrients through plants.


    • 1 – Coffee filter
    • 1 – Sheet of blank paper
    • 1 – Spray bottle
    • 1 – Plastic plate
    • 1 – Pack of markers
    • Water
    1. Flatten a coffee filter on a sheet of paper.
    2. Using different colors of markers, create patterns or designs. You may choose to create your design using dots or by drawing lines. Below are two examples.
    3. Place your filter on a plastic plate. Using a spray bottle, lightly spray a small amount of water onto the filters. Be sure to not saturate the filters; too much water could change your results.
    4. Allow the filter to absorb the water slowly. Observe what happens as the water travels through the filter and across the colors.


Absorption by the filter’s fibers allows the water to travel throughout the filter. As it moves, it carries the ink from the markers with it. The colors will merge and divide into unique and interesting designs. By carefully observing the water traveling though the coffee filter, students get an idea of how plant roots function and bring water and nutrients from the soil to the other parts of the plant.

On top of being able to visualize the movement of nutrients with water, your students will have a beautiful piece of art!

Learn more and request free access to this and other STEAM Fundamentals modules here.

The patterns created by the ink carried by the water allow students to visualize how plants move nutrients.


This post comes from NICERC Curriculum Development Specialist Jon Ownby.