Experimenting with Capillary Action


The Spring Creek Recreational Fund’s (SCRF) Urban Garden Classroom (UGC) is the perfect place to see science in action. However, since we are still in the winter season, our scientific exploration must be made with indoor gardening.

Gateway Intermediate School (IS) 364’s science classes have been working with Garden Educator, Jacqui Roytman on various experiments that help us understand the water cycle, plant life, and other topics. In January, the students helped build a vertical hydroponic unit, where they grew sprouts. The class was able to observe how the seeds grew using hydroton clay balls and consistent watering.

Roytman stressed to the students that water is the most important element in maintaining plant life. She demonstrated how plants consume water through an experiment that reveals its capillary action. “We can see capillary action in plants by using food coloring and Napa Cabbage leaves (a type of Chinese cabbage),” Roytman said. She told the class that capillary action is the motion of bringing water up the roots to the stem, and to the rest of the plant. By using food coloring we can see the traces of capillary action.

“I like this experiment because we get to test the food we usually eat and understand how it grows. You don’t often get to see how a plant
absorbs water when you are at home, but this is a cool and easy
project to try at home,” Jason Caton, 12, said.

The teens each grabbed a plastic cup and marked down the water line with a red marker. They then added four drops of food coloring to the water, culminating the experiment by placing the Napa Cabbage leaf into the cup. Over the course of the next few weeks, the students will be documenting their observations of both water absorption and evaporation. They will discover how long it takes for a plant to absorb water before it evaporates due to the warm temperature within the classroom.

Photos by Amanda Moses