Do You Know Bamboo?

Author(s): Jennifer Howard and Yoko Nozawa

Lesson Overview

Grade level(s):

Elementary School (K-5), Kindergarten, Grade 2


Earth Science, FOSS-Related, Physical Science


Bamboo, wood

Big ideas(s):

Bamboo is a sustainable alternative to wood.

Vocabulary words:

Bamboo, float, sink, hollow, solid

What you need:

Four  6-liter clear basins filled with water

7-8  cups filled with water

7-8  droppers

1 copy of "This is made of bamboo" sheet (attached)

removable tape

ability to view PowerPoint Presentation "Do You Know Bamboo?" (attached)

1 copy for each student of "Do you know bamboo?" worksheet (attached)

100 jumbo paperclips

10 size 8 rubber bands

7-8  hand lenses

Twenty 2-inch sections of bamboo- (Raw bamboo can be purchased at an arts and crafts store like Michael's or possibly from a hardware store. you can cut the pieces into smaller sections with a hand saw or if you find it at a hardware store they could probably cut it into pieces for you).

3 set of wood samples from FOSS Wood and Paper kits

Various items made from bamboo: such as bamboo utensils, bamboo cutting boards, bamboo bowl, a piece of bamboo flooring, raw bamboo


Students will begin and end in a whole group and will be divided into three groups during the bamboo stations.


A Regular Classroom

Time needed:

40 minutes

Author Name(s): 
Jennifer Howard and Yoko Nozawa

Bamboo shares many similarities with wood in their appearance (brown and fibrous) and usage (furniture, flooring etc). Bamboo strips will be studied by floating and sinking tests and compared to wood samples. 

Learning goals/objectives for students: 

-learn that bamboo is a grass and grows much faster than trees

-understand that bamboo floats

-identify how many paperclips it takes to sink a piece of bamboo

-observe and describe how water droplets interact with a piece of bamboo

-identify similarities and differences between bamboo and wood through observation and experimentation

Content background for instructor: 

Bamboo (unlike trees which are considered woody) are members of the grass family. In bamboo and other grasses, regions of the plant stem are hollow, with cross sections of vascular material.

Bamboos are some of the fastest growing plants in the world. They are capable of growing up to 60 centimeters (24 in.) or more per day with the right local soil and climatic conditions. Bamboo species are found in diverse climates, from cold mountains to hot tropical regions.

Bamboo has become economically and cultural significant not only in East Asia and South East Asia where they are used extensively in everyday life as building materials, as a food source and as a highly versatile raw product.  But now in other parts of the world, including in the US, bamboo is used for flooring materials, for making furniture, clothing and other textiles, as well as household materials such as cutting boards, bowls, and utensils.

They originally occured (as native species) across East Asia, parts of Northern Australia, India and areas of sub-Saharan Africa, but now can be found (as non-native species) around the world.

Getting ready: 

Prior to the lesson you will need to "hide" items made of bamboo in your room

Cut "This is bamboo" labels (see attached) and put tape on each label

Set-up 3 stations:

1.  Two 6-liter basins of water, 7-8 pieces of bamboo, and other sink or float items (optional), 1 set of wood samples

2.  Cups with droppers, 7-8 pieces of bamboo and hand lenses, 1 set of wood samples

3.  Two 6-liter basins of water, 7-8 pieces of bamboo, paperclips, and rubber bands, 1 set of wood samples

Lesson Implementation / Outline


Begin with the PowerPoint Presentation (attached): Do You Know Bamboo?

After presentation students will each get a "This is made of bamboo" label and will be asked to "find" something made of bamboo and label it.  Ask, "what kinds of things can be made from bamboo?"

Explain that students will be examining bamboo in the same way they examined wood in the first investigation of FOSS Wood and Paper Kit.  Tell them about each station and show them how to complete the "Do you know bamboo?" worksheet.


Station 1:  At this station students will make a prediction about whether bamboo with sink or float.  Then they will test the bamboo.  Then students will re-test the wood samples and compare the way the wood and bamboo float.  Finally, they will draw (like a scientist: drawing accurately what they see, without imaginary items and labeling if possible) the position of the bamboo and wood in water on their worksheet.

Station 2: At this station students will drop a droplet of water onto the end and side of a piece of bamboo.  Then they will look closely at the end of the bamboo and wood samples using the hand-lenses.  Students will draw what they see on the worksheet.

Station 3:  Students will sink bamboo using the method for sinking wood in the FOSS Wood and Paper kit and record the results on their worksheet.

The typical expected results are as follows (for the teacher to help discuss the students results during the closing "science talk") :

For the droplet test:  the bamboo is only porous on one end (cross section) but not on the surface. A drop of water on the porous surface will eventually "disappear" into the bamboo whereas a drop on the smooth surface will linger.  The same is true for most woods. The idea is to show that different surfaces behave differently because they have distinct functions. The surface keeps not just water away (prevents rotting) but also insects and others which might damage the tree. The porous cross-section shows the "straws" of the tree, which carries nutrients and water to feed itself. Bamboo cross sections are usually small, and the pores will be very small, it might take a while for water to sink in.

Sinking and floating: All wood is porous which allows it to float. However, water soon seeps inside, water-logging the wood and causing it to sink. One way to show this is by filling balloons with different amounts of water and observing when they float/sink. Some woods, like ebony, are very dense and will immediately sink. Bamboo is hollow, which will keep it floating for longer. Eventually (I think it took 3 days for us), it will sink to the bottom as well. What is key here is that density and shape (hollow vs solid) will determine whether an object floats or sinks.

Wrap-up / Closure: 

Gather students back to the rug for a "science talk."  Ask them to share what they have learned about bamboo.

Do_You_Know_Bamboo.ppt8.23 MB
Do_You_Know_Bamboo_Wkst.doc108.5 KB
This_is_made_of_bamboo.doc31.5 KB
NGSS Topics
Kindergarten through Grade 5: 
NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas
NGSS Performance Expectations
NGSS Performance Expectations: 
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts: