Growing Sweet Potatoes like George Washington Carver

Part of the "George Washington Carver" Collection


Students will research and replicate George Washington Carver’s process of growing sweet potatoes.

Estimated Time

45 Minutes

Setting Required



  • SS1H1a. Students will identify the contributions made by (various figures, including) George Washington Carver (science).
  • SS1H1b. Students describe how everyday life of these historical figures is similar to and different from everyday life in the present (food, clothing, homes, transportation, communication, recreation).
  • S1L1a. Students will identify the basic needs of a plant: air, water, light, nutrients.
  • S1L1c. Students will identify the parts of a plant—root, stem, leaf, and flower.



  1. Review with students all the research Dr. Carver did on growing sweet potatoes by viewing his publication: Imagine with students how many experiments he must’ve done to confirm his findings on how to best grow sweet potatoes. Inform students that they will be experimenting with planting sweet potatoes just like Dr. Carver did about 100 years ago.
  2. Explain to students that sweet potatoes aren’t started by seed like most other vegetables. They are started from what is called “slips” which are shoots that grow off of mature sweet potatoes (the roots of the plant).
  3. Work together as a class to start the slips.
    1. Students can assist with washing the sweet potatoes and cutting them in half. They can also assist with filling the cups ¾ full with water.
    2. Model for students how they can use toothpicks around the halved potato section to hold it in place where the cut end is half below the water and the rest is half above.
    3. Leave the slips on a window ledge where they will be warm. Explain to students that in the first stages of its life it only needs water, air, and sunlight to grow.
    4. Over a few weeks, students will be able to recognize the stems and the leaves at the slips become covered with leafy sprouts on top.
  4. Guide students in rooting the slips (once the slips have 6-10 leaves).
    1. Take each sprout and carefully twist it off the sweet potato, as close to the potato as possible.
    2. Lay each sprout in a shallow bowl with the bottom half of the stem submerged in water and the leaves hanging out over the rim.
    3. In a few days, students can recognize the roots as they emerge from the bottom of each new plant.
    4. Discuss with the kids that now the plant will have to have all of its needs met to survive (water, air, sunlight, and nutrients) so it will need to be planted in the soil for its nutrients. If it is May, these can be planted directly into the school garden.

Additional Content for Exploration

See more about growing sweet potatoes in a school summer garden by visiting, Growing Guide: Sweet Potatoes.