Roots and Shoots

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In this outdoor activity, learners discover that plants aren't just shoots (stem, branches, leaves, and flowers) growing above ground, but contain plenty of roots growing underground—more than half the mass of a plant can be its roots. Learners dig up "mystery" plants to investigate their root structures, and match them to different types of root systems. Learners also learn about animals found near plant roots and how humans use roots.

Quick Guide

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 11

Resource Type:


Materials List (per group of students)

  • trowel
  • large paper bags
  • Action card (in PDF)
  • tape or string
  • bucket of water
  • marking pen
  • sheet of Action cards (in PDF)
  • hand lenses (optional)


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
      • Biodiversity

Informal Categories

  • Gardening
  • Nature and Environment
  • Outdoor Activity
  • Physical Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, The Regents of the University of California, 2008