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Thinking Thursday: CD Case Root Viewers

I love spring – picking out what to grow in your gardens or flowerbeds, planting some seeds, and watching those tiny little seedlings poke out of the ground.  It is so rewarding to see that first seedling pop up, but have you ever wondered what it looks like before they start to sprout?  In this Thinking Thursday, we are making a homemade root viewer.  This will allow us to see those first signs of plant life before they start to grow out of the ground!  Root viewer kits can be kind of spendy, but I’m going to show you how to make one out of an old CD case!  If you are ready to start your observations, gather your supplies and follow these directions.

Find a helpful video on how to start your root viewer below:

CD Case Root Viewer


  • Clear CD Case (the older ones work best that are around ¼ inch thick)
  • Soil
  • Permanent Marker
  • Seeds (grass and bean seeds work well, but any seeds will do)
  • Rubber Band


  1. Gather all your supplies in an area where it won’t hurt if it gets a little dirty.
  2. Take your CD case and pop out any inserts including the black part used to hold the CD.
  3. Open your CD case and put a thin layer of soil on half of one side.  Put the soil on the side farthest away from the hinge.
  4. Place a thin layer of seeds at the top edge of the soil (closest to the hinge).  If your seeds are ones you should plant above ground (like grass), you can move to the next step.  If your seeds need a layer of soil on top of them, you can add that now.
  5. Close your CD case and use a rubber band to secure the opening.
  6. Use your permanent marker to write your name and date near the hinge.
  7. Through the slit at the top, add some water.  You want to keep the soil moist – not soaking wet.

Keep your root viewer on a window ledge or somewhere safe where it will get some sun and you can keep an eye on the roots.  Make sure that you also check the soil to ensure it stays wet enough for the seeds to grow.  In the next few days, you should start to see your seeds sprout roots.  When your seeds start to outgrow your root viewer, you can transplant them.


Thinking Thursday projects will be posted each Thursday (except for holidays) throughout the museum closure for COVID-19.  For a full list of previous projects, visit our Thinking Thursday website.

Questions? Contact Sarah, the museum's education coordinator.