ScienceWithPlants Science with Plants is a collection of hands-on activities about the structure and function of plants. The interdisciplinary activities in this book were created for children ages 8-12 and are a nice blend of art, math, ecology, gardening and of course, botany. You won’t need fancy supplies to complete these activities. Most of the items you’ll need are common household items. The major themes of Science with Plants are outlined below.

Here is a brief overview of what you’ll find in this 24-page book:

    Art Activity: Keep a Nature Diary
    Supplies Needed: Beans, lentils, rice, a glass jar, bean seeds
    Concepts Addressed: Seed morphology, how to conduct an investigation, germination, phototropism (a plant’s growth response to light), gravitropism (a plant’s growth response to gravity)
    Also See: A Seed is Sleepy

    Growing Plants

    Art Activity: Create a growth chart for nature diary
    Supplies Needed: Bean plants
    Other Subjects: Math, measuring
    Concepts Addressed: Seedling morphology, plant structure and function, plant needs, data collection
    Also See: Drawings reveal children’s conceptual knowledge of plant structure and function

    Plants and Water

    Art Activity: Entry into nature diary
    Supplies Needed: Celery, ink, any potted plant, a plastic bag, small 2” plants, a large bottle (I think one of those clear plastic containers used for mixed nuts or jelly beans from warehouse stores would work well.)
    Concepts Addressed: Water conduction, plant tissues, transpiration, introduction to the water cycle

    Plants Use Light

    Art Activity: Leaf Print
    Supplies Needed: House plants, foil, paper, crayons
    Concepts Addressed: Phototropism, photosynthesis, leaf shapes, plant identification
    Also See:
    Comic book about photosynthesis
    The chemistry of plants


    Art Activity: Entry into nature diary
    Supplies Needed: Roses, common flowering plants (e.g., tulip, daffodil, iris), magnifying glass (or try a magnifying glass app)
    Concepts Addressed: Flower morphology, plant-pollinator relationships, pollination


    Art Activity: Observing Trees
    Supplies Needed: Tree(s) in the yard or neighborhood
    Concepts Addressed: Tree growth, tree canopies, deciduous vs. evergreen
    Also See: Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down?

    New Plants from Old Plants

    Art Activity: Entry into nature diary
    Supplies Needed: Onions, amaryllis, carrot tops, beet tops
    Concepts Addressed: Bulb morphology, forcing bulbs, vegetative propagation
    Also See: How to create a themed plant display

    Seed Dispersal

    Art Activity: Entry into nature diary
    Supplies Needed: Dirt, plastic bag, assorted examples of seeds and fruit types
    Concept Addressed: Seed dispersal
    Also See: Seed pod project by Anna Laurent

    Plants & Soil

    Art Activity: Entry into nature diary
    Supplies Needed: Soil, a clear glass (or plastic) jar, water, leaf litter, a plastic bag
    Concepts Addressed: Soil, decomposition
    Also See: A Log’s Life and the work of scientific illustrator, Robin Brickman

    Useful Plants

    Art Activity: Entry into nature diary
    Supplies Needed: Assorted plant material from the panty and refrigerator, cotton balls, newspaper
    Concepts Addressed: Recycling, economic botany
    Also See: Colorful Edibles

Author Helen Edom does a wonderful job of filling this book with practical learning experiences and clear instruction. She closes her book with a section titled, Notes for Parents and Teachers, in which she provides additional information to help parents and teachers answer questions that may come up during the activities.

Science with Plants is a nice addition to any home or classroom library and will provide hours of fun and thoughtful observation.

Available from your local independent bookstore. ($5.99)

ArtPlantae is an affiliate of IndieBound and a supporter of independent bookstores. It receives a small portion of each online purchase made through IndieBound. Thank you for your show of support for independent bookstores and ArtPlantae. Proceeds benefit the InterpretPlants program.

Paphiopedilum maudiae, watercolor by Leslie Watkins, ©2014

Paphiopedilum maudiae, watercolor by Leslie Watkins, ©2014

Leslie Watkins
Leslie Watkins is a well known botanical illustrator and landscape painter, with 30 years of practice and teaching. A very popular instructor, she is also the founding director of the NWCT Berkshire Plein Air Painters.

    Nature Studies in Watercolor
    Wednesdays, March 4-25, 2015
    10 am – 12 pm

    Learn techniques of traditional watercolor as used by the masters.

    Develop your skills and add to your portfolio as you paint. This class will provide the student with the confidence and ability to maintain a personal record of the natural world, with the intent to use it as a foundation to create works of art. Elements of painting such as drawing, the movement of light, mass conceptions, depicting form, creating depth, and atmospheric perspective will be taught. Traditional English watercolor techniques will be demonstrated, as used by J.M.W. Turner, Beatrix Potter, Albrecht Dürer, and Pierre Joseph Redouté.

    Students at all levels, including beginners will enjoy this relaxed and illuminating class. More experienced painters will hone their craft and receive constructive criticism. Plenty of individual instruction and live demonstrations will be given. Bring any watercolor supplies you may have on hand, additional materials will be available for purchase.

    This class will meet at Dandelion Cottage, 281 Litchfield Road, Norfolk, CT 06058.

    Contact: Leslie Watkins, (860) 542-3920

This information has also been posted to Classes Near You > Connecticut.

Order the new calendar!

Order the new calendar!

Never lose sight of nature in 2015 with The Illustrated Garden’s new calendar!

This new calendar features hand-drawn illustrations, hand-lettered text and pages of garden lore, birds and bugs. It also includes all full moon dates for 2015, Solstice and Equinox dates, major holidays (plus some not-so-major, but very interesting holidays).

This new calendar was created by illustrator and teacher Val Webb, founder of The Illustrated Garden. Published in a convenient 8.5” x 11” format, this new calendar will be sent as a printable PDF beginning January 1, 2015. Happy New Year!

hortusAtelier_AnitaWalsmitSachs_Page_2Experience the history of botanical art at the Hortus Botanicus Leiden and help celebrate its 425th birthday!

Founded by the University of Leiden in 1590, many famous scientists have links to this garden. For example, botanist Carolus Clusius (1526-1609) who introduced the tulip to the Netherlands, botanist Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738) and Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778). Albert Einstein (1879-1955) also has links to the garden.

Now you can make this historic garden part of your story too!

In April 2015, scientific illustrator Anita Walsmit Sachs will teach a five-day workshop in botanical drawing and painting in cooperation with Hortus Botanicus Leiden. Here is an overview of this springtime workshop:

  • April 12 – Introductions, garden tour, drawing in graphite.
  • April 13 – Instruction about paper, paint, color and composition.
  • April 14 – Transition from pencil drawing to painting in watercolor.
  • April 15 – Continued instruction in painting botanical subjects.
  • April 16 – Continued instruction in painting botanical subjects.
  • Cost: €375,00 includes morning coffee, brasserie lunch and afternoon drinks

Learn more about this workshop and the award-winning work of Anita Walsmit Sachs. Click on the image above to download a color flyer.

This information has also been added to Classes Near You > Netherlands.

Opens Next Week!

The viewing of Following in the Bartrams’ Footsteps at the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley will be the only West Coast showing of this traveling exhibition by the American Society of Botanical Artists. The Garden has planned special programs related to the exhibition. Information about these programs and other learning opportunities in botanical art can be viewed below and at Classes Near You > Northern California.

University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley

This 34-acre garden was established in 1890 and is now a non-profit research garden and museum. The botanical art classes at UCBG are taught by Lee McCaffree and Catherine Watters. View a detailed schedule and register on the Garden’s website.


    Following in the Bartrams’ FootstepsBartram_cover_500px
    December 15, 2014 – February 15, 2015
    Open Daily | 10 am – 4 pm
    This major art exhibition includes forty-four original artworks based on the native plant discoveries made by John and William Bartram in their renowned and influential travels throughout the Eastern wilderness between the 1730s and 1790s. The UC Botanical Garden will be the only West Coast showing of this exhibition. On view in the new Julia Morgan Hall.
    Free with Garden Admission

    PLANTS ILLUSTRATED: Following the Garden’s Path
    January 7 –  February 15, 2015
    10 am – 4 pm
    Come view our 6th annual Plants Illustrated exhibition of Botanical Art featuring work by the Northern California Society of Botanical Artists.  This year the pieces will represent plants in the Garden’s collection.
    Free with Garden Admission

    Plants Illustrated: Opening Reception for Garden Members and NCSBA Artists
    Saturday, January 24, 2015
    4:30 pm – 6:30 pm
    Come view our annual exhibition of botanical art, Plants Illustrated at this special members’ event. Meet the artists, sip wine and learn about the Northern California Society of Botanical Artists.  Free; card-holding members only; advance registration is required; space is limited.


    An Introduction to Botanical Art with Catherine Watters
    Thursday, January 22, 2015 &
    Friday, January 23, 2015
    10 am – 4 pm
    This class will introduce you to the fascinating world of Botanical Art. Catherine Watters will teach you to observe, measure and draw plants in great detail and with botanical accuracy. Students will work with graphite, colored pencil and watercolors.
    All levels are welcome.
    $180 / $170 members

    Botanical Art for Young Adults
    Saturday, February 7, 2015
    1 pm – 3 pm
    Join artist and educator Sally Petru for an afternoon investigation to learn to draw both botanically accurate and artful representations of plants. All levels are welcome and parents/guardians are welcome to register as students alongside their child. $40 / $30 members


    The Legacy of the Bartrams with Carol Woodin,
    ASBA Exhibitions Director

    Friday, December 19, 2014
    10 am – 11:30 am
    Who were John and William Bartram? Come learn about this fascinating father-son duo and the legacy they’ve had on American botany, horticulture and botanical art. Free with Garden Admission

    The Venus Fly trap and other Amazing Carnivorous Plants
    Saturday, January 10, 2015
    10 am – 11 am
    John Bartram was the first to introduce the Venus Fly Trap into cultivation. Family members of all age are invited to discover some of the fascinating and beautiful plants that can eat insects. Get up close with the amazing leaf adaptations as you learn more
    about them. $15 / $10 members

    A Journey with the Bartrams, Hookers and other Famous Families in Western Botanical Science, Art and Exploration with Dr. Peggy Fiedler
    Saturday, January 31, 2015
    1 pm – 3 pm
    John Bartram and his son, William Bartram, were among the first active, professional American field botanists throughout the Revolutionary era. Father John (1699-1777) was an indefatigable collector of plants and seeds during his travels across eastern North America, eventually establishing arguably the first botanic garden in the New World. His son William (1739-1823) was similarly well-traveled, an avid collector, and an extraordinary artist of both plants and birds. At roughly the same time as the younger Bartram, William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865) was burnishing his credentials as an intrepid English explorer, keen botanist and accomplished illustrator as well as the third director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. His son, Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911) too followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming one of the greatest British botanists of the 19th century, the 4th director of Kew, and Charles Darwin’s closest friend and confidante. Free with Garden Admission

    Maria Sibylla Merian: A Passion for Plants & Insects
    Thursday, February 5, 2015
    10 am – 11:30 am
    The artist and scientist Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) was born in Frankfurt, Germany, into a middle-class family of publishers and artists. At the age of fifty-two, Merian traveled with her younger daughter to Suriname, a Dutch territory in South America, to paint its exotic insects. She was an adventurous woman way ahead of her time, whose amazing career as an artist, writer and teacher revolutionized botany and zoology. Come learn more about this fascinating woman. $12 / $10 members


Information about the Spring 2015 workshop Botanical Illustration of Desert Flora has been announced. Here is the latest at Classes Near You > Southern California!

UC Riverside Extension Program


Field journals are the most important tool for any biologist. Like artists, field biologists have definite opinions about what their journals should be like. I was taught how to keep a field journal in a 8.5” x 5.5” format. My field journal still has the Celsius/Farenheit temperature conversion chart I taped to it almost 30 years ago, as well as a graph of soil surface temperatures at which foraging occurs in three seed-eating ants (this is from my days of identifying ant heads in lizard scat).

In today’s world, gadgets with touch screens seem to be the new note taking tools while the handwritten journal is presented as more of a novelty. Today we give paper and pencil some well-deserved attention and learn how biologists teach students the value of learning from field journals.

What is the value of old-school style field journals?

This topic is discussed by professors John Farnsworth, Lyn Baldwin and Michelle Bezanson in An Invitation for Engagement: Assigning and Assessing Field Notes to Promote Deeper Levels of Observation. In their paper, the authors explore how their colleagues use field journals in college-level natural history classes. The authors also make a case for the inclusion of creative writing and drawing in science journals.

Within the meditative lines of a landscape drawing or a contour drawing of a plant, the marks on a page can move beyond a visual image to celebration. The science of ecology needs the joy of art.

— John Farnsworth, Lyn Baldwin and Michelle Bezanson

Farnsworth et al. (2014) believe field notebooks should be a component of all natural history courses because they help students pay attention to their surroundings, encourage deeper understanding and provide learners with a place to record their experiences with the natural world.

The authors suggest instructors use a rubric to help assess student journals and offer two examples of scoring rubrics in their paper. One of the rubrics is a straight-forward scoring guide and the second rubric is a scoring guide showing instructors how they can engage students in journaling on a deeper level. This second rubric is especially good and I recommend taking a look at it to see how it may contribute to what you do in your own classrooms or programs.

Natural History is About Connections, Not Memorization

With so much information coming at them, students often resort to memorization to “learn” in their classes. Farnsworth et al. (2014) propose correcting this behavior with field journals so students can better observe Nature’s patterns and processes. To help them provide examples of how journals can be used as tools for more meaningful learning, they contacted colleagues at the Natural History Network and invited them to send examples of journaling assignments and rubrics they use in their own classrooms. Using the materials they received, Farnsworth et al. (2014) created a list of best practices. This list of best practices includes ideas to help students record Nature’s patterns and to interpret what they observe. It also includes suggestions about how to encourage students to write for future generations and how to encourage students to draw what they see.

To read all of the best practices and to view the rubrics described above,
view An Invitation for Engagement online or download a copy. This article is available for free from the Journal of Natural History Education and Experience.

Literature Cited

Farnsworth, J.S., L. Baldwin, and M. Bezanson. 2014. An invitation for engagement: Assigning and assessing field notes to promote deeper levels of observation. Journal of Natural History Education and Experience. 8:12-20


ArtPlantae is an affiliate of IndieBound and a supporter of independent bookstores. It receives a small portion of each purchase made through IndieBound.org. Thank you for your show of support for ArtPlantae and local independent bookstores.


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