Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 4-12, students use the drag-and-drop game Build-A-Plant: Corn to explore the structures and substructures of a corn plant. Working in pairs or small groups, students will build vegetative, reproductive, and mature corn plants from their roots up by dragging and dropping the parts to the correct position. Case studies of problems associated with corn plants challenge students to put their new knowledge of the plant’s structure to the test.  


Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Lesson Plan Next Generation Science Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Work collaboratively to identify and learn about the parts and structures of a corn plant.
  2. Build a corn plant from the roots up using an interactive simulation, and discover how the parts work together.
  3. Identify structures associated with different problems that affect corn plants.


  • Computers or other devices with Internet access
  • Interactive whiteboard
  • Small dry erase boards for each pair or small group, or sheets of paper


This lesson plan features the simulation Build-a-Plant: Corn developed by our partner,  Spongelab Interactive. This playful interactive challenges students to build a soybean plant by dragging and dropping its parts to the correct place. The interactive also challenges students to case studies in which they read about a problem and then identify which plant structure is the origin of the problem or affected by it.   

Preview and play Build-a-Plant: Corn  to plan how you will adapt it to your students’ needs. If students will be playing in small groups, review tips on Setting Cooperative Gaming Expectations.

Depending on your classroom routines and available technology, you may want to consider these grouping options:

  • 1:1 with students and devices
  • Two to three students sharing one device and swapping ideas and the device back and forth
  • Station model where small groups rotate through using the devices

For more information about using interactive simulations effectively in the classroom, review our Educator’s Guide to Teaching with Digital Interactive Models and Teaching Strategies for Interactive Simulations.

Build background knowledge or reinforce topics with these BrainPOP movies: Plant Growth, Seed Plants, Photosynthesis, Seedless Plants, Six Kingdoms, George Washington Carver

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Prompt students to share what they know about corn, such as how it grows, what it looks like, it’s parts, what its seeds are like, etc.
  2. After everyone shares their ideas, play the BrainPOP movie Seed Plants on the whiteboard or other display.  
  3. Divide the class into pair or small groups and project the Build-a-Plant: Corn interactive on the whiteboard. Explain that that today they will work together to build vegetative, reproductive, and mature corn plants. After they assemble the plants, they will read case studies describing various problems associated with corn plants and identify the plant structure associated with the problem.  
  4. Read, or invite a volunteer to read, the information about the corn plant on the left side of the screen. Then choose, but do NOT click, one of the structures listed in the the tray on the right. Now challenge pairs or teams to come up with a definition for that plant part and write it on paper or a small dry erase board. On your signal, instruct each team or pair to hold up their definitions.
  5. Now click the plant part and read the definition that displays on the left side of the screen. Compare the definition to each pair/team’s definition and award points to teams based on the accuracy of their definitions (e.g., 3 points for a correct and highly detailed definition, 2 points for a correct definition that may be less detailed; 1 point for a partially correct definition, and 0 for an incorrect definition). For more in-depth game play, display all the responses in the front of the room and have the class analyze them together. They can rank the responses in the same way and a volunteer can keep track of each team’s points on the board
  6. After analyzing answers, have pairs/teams work at their own computers or devices to click the part and drag it to the correct position on the screen. Point out that some parts, such as the root, have a substructure so they will need to assemble them before dropping them in. Model how they can use the arrows to the left of the illustration to move up and down or the plant and the plus/minus to zoom in and out.
  7. Repeat the process of defining, comparing definitions, ranking, and dragging/dropping for each plant part until the plants are completely assembled.
  8. After teams/partners assemble their corn plants, challenge them to solve the case studies. Model the first one by clicking the Case Studies link on the top right side of the screen. Select the first case study: Transposable Elements. Read, or have a volunteer read, the case study that displays on the left side. Then show them how to answer the question the case study presents by clicking on the plant part.
  9. Have students work with their partner or team to complete the other case studies. Encourage them to discuss each case, and consider what they know, before clicking the plant part. Circulate as students work, listening in on their discussions and strategies, providing support as needed.
  10. Bring the class together to reflect on the structures and problems they explored through the interactive. Have them share what new information they learned. You can return to the discussion questions from the beginning to assess what they’ve learned.

Extension Activities:

Invite students to further explore the topic of plants by watching the following BrainPOP movies: Plant Growth, Photosynthesis, Seedless Plants, Six Kingdoms, George Washington Carver. Students may also play related Spongelab games, including: What Plants Need Build-a-Tree, Build-a-Plant: Tomato, and Build-a-Plant: Soybean.

Challenge students to further research one of the issues featured in the Case Studies.