Nurturing Young Nature Lovers
● By Brian O
Learning about plants is fun.
Whether you're a parent, a classroom teacher, or a homeschool instructor, you know that students learn best when they can interact with their subject. It can be fun and inspirational to explore and experience an educational concept first hand.
The sample project featured here comes from a free resource that's helping to inspire elementary-aged students across the country. The educator website MyBotanicPlanet.com is a creative collaboration between TruGreen, the nation's largest professional lawn, tree and shrub care service provider, and the Memphis Botanic Garden.
Through online and hands-on experiences, this resource lets students customize an avatar to explore colorful plant environments and interactive games as they learn.
What you need
-Enough real flowers for pairs or groups to work together. Alstroemerias and gladiolus work well and are available year round in supermarket floral departments. Azaleas or any member of the lily family could also be used because the parts are well-defined and easy to see.
-Plastic knives and tweezers could be used for dissecting equipment.
-A magnifying glass would allow for closer inspection.
-Open up the flower. This is easily done by first locating the base of the flower and slicing or splitting it in half. Use a dissection tool or even a fingernail.
-Next, slice or pinch off the petals. Remind students to be careful with all of the tiny pieces. It's easy to damage or brush away some of the most important parts.
Review the parts of the flower
-Petal: This is the colorful part of the flower that attracts the attention of birds, bees and butterflies, letting them know that there is food inside the flower. Have students record how many petals their flower has and what they look like.
-Stamen: This is where the pollen is made. For older students, you could also point out that the top part that holds the pollen is the anther and the stem part is called the filament. Students should record how many stamens their flower has. If it has six petals, it will also have six stamens. If they have an extra piece, then one should look a little bit different, and is actually part of the pistil.
-Pistil: This is where the seeds are made. The pistil is made of three different parts. The very top of the pistil is called the stigma. The stigma is where the pollen falls when a pollinator brings it in. The pollen travels down the tube (style) and goes down to the bottom (ovary) where the seeds will form. Split the pistil lengthwise to look inside. You should see unfertilized beginnings of seeds. The seed pattern inside will be the same pattern of seeds within the fruit later. If you cut an apple in half horizontally and see the five seeds in a star pattern, you will know that the flower's pistil had five compartments.
-Sepal: These are the tiny leaves on the lower part of the flower that protect it before it begins to bloom. Every flowering bud is hidden safely behind these two little leaves until the flower is fully developed. When the bloom begins to grow, the sepal will split open and the petals can break out.
Visit www.MyBotanicPlanet.com for more.