PlantingScience Guide for Teachers and Liaisons

Click on each heading for more information on a particular topic.

1. Register

Welcome to PlantingScience!

Start your journey by registering on our website.

New teachers (from United States schools only) need to return a letter signed by your school authority approving your school’s participation in the program.


2. Look Over Our Online Resources

While you wait for a session to begin, check out our resources for teachers and for students.

Make sure to choose an Investigation Theme for your classroom.

3. Apply for a Session

We have two sessions each year, from September–November and February–April. To participate in a session you’ll need to APPLY. Applications are due about a month before each session starts, to allow enough time to send materials and make liaison matches.

We’ll ask which Investigation Theme you would like to use, how many teams you’ll likely have, and when you plan to start and end. We highly recommend that new teachers start with one Investigation Theme and less than 10 teams.

4. Welcome Materials Arrive

A few weeks before each session you will get an e-mail from letting you know if you have been accepted for the session. Shortly after this notification, you will receive - depending on the Investigation Theme you've selected - materials needed to complete the investigation. We will be in contact via email regularly to notify you when your group is ready and what your next steps will be.

We’ll also send you a link to join your classroom group, and introduce you to the early-career scientist mentor who will be assigned to be your liaison.

5. Students must hand in consent forms (under 13 years of age)

Following COPPA, we require parental consent for all students under 13 years of age. We provide permission forms to acquire consent. ALL students will need to consent to the Terms and Conditions when they first log into the platform, but those under 13 will also need parental consent in order to obtain the ticket required for logging in. If a student under 13 does not have a signed consent form, they can participate in the classroom and through their teammates' posts.

Students without completed consent forms SHOULD NOT receive tickets with login information.

Please scan and email consent forms to You can also mail them via USPS to:

PlantingScience Staff
4475 Castleman Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63110

6. Meet with Your Liaison

Set up a time to discuss your goals and plans with your liaison. You can use a videoconference, phone, or e-mail.

Use the classroom info template to guide your discussion. You’ll need to complete this template for the next step.

7. Customize Your Classroom Group

This step can be done by teachers or liaisons.

You can access your classroom group on your dashboard when you log in. Customize the text in “About the Group” by pasting in copied information from the PS Group Overview Class Info Template file. Invited mentors will view this information to see if your class is a good fit for them. Add any missing information and verify that what is currently in the description is accurate.

To edit this area, click on the “Group Manager” dropdown on the left and select “Edit Group Settings” and replace the text in the “Public Description” area. Scroll to the bottom and click “Save Group.” Please do not change other group settings.

Click for a step-by-step with screenshots.

For more information on how to navigate the classroom group:

8. Invite Mentors

This step can be done by teachers or liaisons.

  • 1) Filter the mentor gallery by availability, class level, and investigation theme to choose appropriate scientist mentors for your teams. It’s a good idea to have several backup choices in mind.
  • 2) Invite selected mentors to join your classroom group using the Members tab in your classroom group, and the “invite members” button at the top right.

Click for a step-by-step with screenshots.

9. Invite 2nd Round of Mentors

Are you having trouble with the auto-selected mentors in your group - not enough? Too many? Wrong qualifications?

This step can be done by teachers or liaisons.

Sometimes it takes more than one round of invitations to get all the mentors that you need. Try to plan at least 6 days for mentor matching. Keep track of when you have sent invitation(s) so that you can cancel hanging invitations and invite someone new after 3 days.

Trouble-shooting Mentor Matching.

10. Welcome Mentors and Share Timeline

This step can be done by teachers or liaisons.

Once enough mentors have joined your group, it is a good idea to welcome them and provide an update on what the class is doing to in class, and send out an announcement about when you plan to make team assignments and when the students will be logging on for the first time.

What options do I have for communicating with mentors in my classroom group?

Click here for more options.

11. Create Team Projects

This step can be done by teachers or liaisons.

Each of your teams will get their own project page to work on. To create projects:

  • Click on the “Projects” tab in your classroom group. Click “Add Project” button at the top right.
  • Enter the number of projects you will need and click “Add.” This will create a project for each team.
  • You can use the “team member” dropdown to add a mentor to each team at this stage if you’d like. Only mentors who have accepted group membership will show up here. The role should remain “collaborator.”
  • Click “create” button at the bottom.

Click for a step-by-step with screenshots.

12. Assign one Mentor to Each Project

This step can be done by teachers or liaisons.

You can add a mentor to each project AS you create projects (see previous step). After you have created projects, you can add mentors by:

  • Clicking on the “team” icon at the bottom of each project “card” in your project list.
  • Click on the “edit team” button at the top right.
  • Using the “Add new member(s)” box to enter the mentor’s name. Mentors should be “collaborators.”

Click for a step-by-step with screenshots.

13. Add Students to Projects

This step should be done by teachers.

Student accounts are created in the “projects” tab of your classroom group on the “students” horizontal tab. Click “create” to get started.

For this step you need to know:

Passwords MUST contain:

  • The first name of your students (can include last initial or other identifiers if you have several students with the same first name)
  • The password you’d like students to use the first time they log in (we recommend using the same password for all students…they will change it when they log in and you can reset it if they forget).
    • at least 1 letter
    • at least 8 characters
    • no more than 16 characters
    • more than 4 unique characters
    • no easily-guessed words
  • The project number (1,2,3 etc) of the project each student will be on.

Student accounts can be created one at a time or you can download and complete a .csv template and create all the student accounts at once. Only enter students’ first names, password (it can be the same for all students), and a number for the project team to which the student will be assigned.

Click for a step-by-step to create student accounts one at a time.

14. Hand out Tickets

This step should be done by teachers, and tickets SHOULD ONLY go to students who have turned in completed consent forms (13 and under).

You can download a .pdf of “tickets” that you can cut up and hand out to your students when it is time for them to log in for the first time.

Click for a step-by-step with screenshots.

How do I reset a password for a student?

  • Click on the “projects” tab within your classroom group and click on the “Students” horizontal tab.
  • Click on the dropdown “Export” button at the top right and choose “PDF.”
  • Print this file, cut into “tickets” and hand out to your students. Recommend that they write down their PlantingScience username and the password they choose in their lab notebook or somewhere else where they are unlikely to forget it.

15. Bring Students Online

Direct students to the student guide for a step-by-step guide to getting started with their projects. Having a few print copies of this on hand is also helpful.

It can be helpful to give students some guidance for introducing themselves to mentors. Some teachers give prompts or a quick reminder about professional communication. It is a good idea to ask mentors to introduce themselves before students come online to set the tone for the conversation.

Tips for teachers about facilitating online conversations with mentors

16. Project Planning with Mentors: More time = Better Projects

Make sure to leave plenty of time for project planning with mentors before your students need to begin their investigations. This is a critical time for mentor input and you’ll want to leave enough time for several exchanges between your students and their mentors. More time here almost always leads to better investigations. Make sure your students are taking their mentors’ feedback into consideration!

Teacher Tips for each Stage of an Investigation

17. Missing Mentors: Get Help from your Liaison

Occasionally, a mentor will not come online or will come online but then suddenly stop contributing to a conversation.

Teachers: let your liaison know if you notice particular teams need immediate feedback. The liaison will step in to mentor temporarily and report the missing mentor to program staff so that we can work to get them back online.

Use the Project Status Report and the Member Status Report to check on stalled conversations and identify missing mentors.

18. Investigations Begin

Be sure to let your mentors know when you expect students will carry out their investigations in class. This will help the mentors to time when they should provide their feedback. Sometimes students post less frequently during the data collection phase of their experiment. You can encourage them to stay in touch with their mentor. If they do not have new data to report, they can always ask questions about their scientist’s work or life.

Liaisons, you can help facilitate discussions at this point. Often you will find that you will need to answer mentor questions about the timeline in the group forum, facilitate communication between the teacher and mentor - depending on how active the teacher is online - and provide periodic encouragement to mentors throughout the process. Remember, as a liaison, you can see a broader picture than mentors, who can sometimes feel a little lost without specific instructions or interactions from liaisons, teachers, and students. If you are not sure, be sure to check in with your teacher partner so you can help.

Teacher Tips for the Data Collection Phase

19. Videoconference Motivation Boost

If you have a good internet connection and webcam, consider working with your IT department and your liaison to plan a videoconference with your scientist mentors. You can use Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts or other platforms. Get in touch with for help. Teachers have arranged videoconferences at many stages of their students’ investigations, either towards the beginning where students get feedback on their proposals and/or get to ask scientists about their lives, or toward the end where students present their work and get final feedback about their conclusions and presentations. Typically, it is best to choose 2-3 mentors who are available for a videoconference with the whole class as more on a call can slow down the connection speed.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please do not schedule videoconferences unless the teacher will be present on each call. It is against our policies to have unsupervised conversations between students and scientists.

20.Making Meaning with Mentors: More time = Better projects

After the investigations are complete is another critical point for students to communicate with their mentors. Mentors can help the students make meaning of their data and interpret their results to make better conclusions. Mentors can also help student teams put together better ways to communicate their results. More time spent in this phase almost always leads to better projects.

Tips for Helping Students Make Sense of Findings

Tips for Helping Students Argue from Evidence

21. Thanks and Goodbye

It makes a lot of difference to our volunteer mentors if teachers or students take a moment at the end of the project to share something they’ve learned or something they are still curious about, and to thank the mentors for their help.

Please be sure to let the mentors know when the students have finished and will no longer be logging on to the website so that they know they do not need to keep checking for updates.

Thank you, teachers and liaisons, for helping to open students’ eyes to the importance of plants and science. Please come back and join us for a future session!

22. Loved it? Apply for Next Session

If you have enjoyed this session of PlantingScience, please consider joining us again in a future session! We will be in touch with a reminder before each session. Or, you can apply for an upcoming session here.