Bean in a Bottle

Grow your knowledge about plants!

About the Activity

Plant some seeds of knowledge about the lifecycle of vegetation! Through this activity, kids will learn about the life cycle of a plant, discovering what plants need to survive. They will also learn about innovative gardens that don’t require going outside. This activity showcases how agriculture and science go hand-in-hand.


Grades: 3-5
Topic: Plant Science
Estimated Time: 1 hour


Brought to you by Bayer


The activity was developed by the 4‑H Youth in Action Awards Agriculture Pillar winner, Serena Woodard.

4-H STEM Lab Logo

These simple materials—along with a few specialty supplies—will get you started.

  • 1 empty plastic bottle
  • scissors
  • string
  • water
  • garden soil
  • bean seeds

Optional add-ons


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Activity Steps
Follow these simple steps to plant your bean in a bottle.

  1. Carefully cut the water bottle in half, horizontally. Depending on the age of the child doing this activity, an adult may need to do this.Did You Know? The life cycle of a plant includes these four stages: seed, sprout, seedling, plant.
  2. Assist kids with cutting a small hole in the bottle cap.Did You Know? In this activity, you’ll grow a plant in soil, but plants can be grown without soil. Hydroponics is the process of growing plants in perlite (a kind of heat-treated volcanic glass rich in minerals), gravel or liquid, and added nutrients to the water– but without soil.
  1. Cut a string that is about five inches long.
  2. Poke the string through the hole in the cap and tie a knot on the inside of the cap. Screw the cap back onto the top section of the bottle.
  3. Now, fill the bottom-half section of the bottle with water.
  4. Take the top half of the bottle and place it upside down, inside the bottom half of the bottle. The cap should not be touching the water.
  5. Fill the top half of the bottle with soil. Press a bean seed into the soil and cover with about ½ inch of soil.
  6. Place your Bean in a Bottle in a sunny location either inside or outside, and watch your bean grow! Don’t forget to change out the water when it begins to change color.
  7. Use the STEM Lab Notebook to explain the lifecycle of a bean. Encourage kids to use it over the coming weeks to record the changes in their bean!How it Works: In the Bean in a Bottle activity, the string wicks water up into the soil to keep the plant moist. Water is made of cohesive and adhesive properties, which means that it “sticks” to itself and other special materials. This allows the water to be absorbed into the string; once the string has been completely soaked it will result in water droplets being left in the soil, where it can then be absorbed by the plant.
prepping a plastic bottle to grow a bean in a bottle

Reflection Questions
Questions for your kids and teens.

  1. How does agriculture relate to science and why is it important that these fields work together?

  2. What did you learn about indoor gardening?

  3. How does the water get to your bean?

  4. What are other ways to be active in agriscience in your home? In the city? Brainstorm ideas.

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Investigate and Explore
Take what you've learned to the next level to learn more and explore the possibilities.

If you enjoyed this activity, you can take it a step further by making a bean in a bottle that is hydroponic by replacing the dirt with perlite or gravel and adding hydroponic plant food to the water. Use your STEM Lab notebook to make observations about how the plants grow.


Ninety-five percent of the world's food uses topsoil to grow, but crop yields have declined as erosion and other forces eradicate parts of it across the globe. There are lots of different hydroponic systems, but one of the simplest kinds uses water wicking, just like this activity.

growing lettuce in a hydroponic greenhouse

STEM is used on every farm and ranch, from tractor GPS systems to hydroponic systems. And hydroponics are becoming used more widely in agricultural production, too! Even NASA uses hydroponics to grow plants and vegetables aboard the International Space Station. Experts think hydroponics could support long-term space missions.

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