Bean in a Carton

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Bean in a Carton

Water is made of cohesive and adhesive properties, which means that it “sticks” to itself and other special materials. This property of water allows it to be absorbed by materials like paper towels, clothing and string.

Learn more about cohesion and adhesion with Khan Academy. 

In this activity, we will test the cohesive and adhesive properties of water to be absorbed by placing one end of a string in water and the other in soil, trying to water a seed.


  • Large Milk Carton
  • Scissors
  • String
  • Water
  • Soil (We also mixed in some Peat Moss)
  • 6 Snow Pea Seeds


  1. Remove the lid and cut the carton in half, horizontally.
  2. Cut a small hole in the lid.
  3. Cut a string about 8 inches long.
  4. 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 carton.
  5. Fill ¾ of the bottom section of the carton with water.
  6. With the string laying flat and straight, fill the top half of the carton with soil and press the bean seeds into the soil. We put ours in a straight line going down the carton.
  7. Take the top half of the carton and place it upside down, on the bottom half. Only the string should be touching the water.
Preparing our carton for our Pea Seed.

Preparing our carton for our Pea Seed.

Soil in the bottom of the carton

Soil in the bottom of the carton.

Carton filled with soil and peat moss

Carton filled with soil and peat moss

Finished carton

Finished carton

Close up of string

Close up of string

Once the string is completely soaked, it will result in water being left in the soil. In the soil, it can be utilized by the seed.

For older children, make it hydroponic by replacing the soil with perlite or gravel and add hydroponic plant food to the water.

Questions to consider:

  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.

According to National 4-H, this activity teaches the basics of plant life cycles, but it also teaches about hydroponics! Hydroponics is the process of growing plants in perlite, gravel or liquid, with added nutrients but without soil. There are lots of different hydroponic systems, but one of the simplest kinds uses water wicking, just like this activity.

The original activity was completed with a plastic water bottle and can be found on the National 4-H Site. We used a milk carton so it could sit in the window sill. Use a plastic bottle, milk carton or plastic jug – whatever you have in the house! Be creative! 

Here are the directions from the National 4-H Site


  • 1 empty plastic bottle
  • Scissors
  • String
  • Water
  • Garden soil
  • Bean seed(s)

Optional Supplies:

  • Hydroponic plant food
  • Perlite


  • Cut the water bottle in half, horizontally.
  • Remove the bottle cap and assist kids with cutting a small hole in the bottle cap.
  • Cut a string that is about five inches long.
  • 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.
  • Now, fill ¾ of the bottom section of the bottle with water.
  • 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.
  • Fill the top half of the bottle with soil. Press a bean seed into the soil and cover with about ½ inch of soil.
  • Place the 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 color.