Let’s say your normal teaching assignment involves introducing adult audiences to plant morphology and botanical illustration. Then one day, you are invited to teach the same subjects to children under the age of five.
Easy enough, you think.
However when you start sifting through your notes, you realize you talk too much and that it has been a while since you’ve had a conversation with a three-year old. How do you transform an adult activity about botanical illustration and plant morphology into one suitable for children with a very short attention span?
But let’s say you need help NOW and are looking for one good resource to help you rework your usual lesson plan. Consider reading the paper The Early Years: First Explorations in Flower Anatomy by preschool science teacher and author, Peggy Ashbrook.
In her paper, Ashbrook (2008) provides detailed instruction about how to lead a flower morphology lesson that uses drawing as a learning tool.
Probably the biggest difference between interacting with children, compared with adults, is the extent to which you have to model behavior. Conducting a demonstration or a desk-side show-n-tell comes pretty easily to adults. But modeling is more deliberate and requires a bit of forethought. To do this successfully, Ashbrook (2008) recommends teachers talk about the specimens under observation when modeling how they want students to observe. She recommends teachers say things such as, “Look at the tiny petals on this flower. The stamen has a yellow dust on it called pollen. Do all flowers have pollen?” (Ashbrook, 2008). Modeling, of course, does not end here because teachers then need to act out each step of the activity. They need to draw the same flowers students draw, explain how sketches or “first tries” (Ashbrook, 2008) don’t ever look like the actual specimen, and so on.
Ashbrook’s plant morphology lesson relies heavily on drawing. She has students drawing up to 5 varieties of flowers, recording differences between flowers, and describing each flower’s color either visually or in a written statement. She also has students pulling flowers apart so they can view, draw and describe each flower’s innermost structures.
And just like in any botanical illustration class, students gather at the end to share their drawings with classmates. For this closing activity, Ashbrook (2008) groups drawings by flower type to make sure the class discussion focuses on flower diversity and not on the quality of her young artists’ drawings.
If you lead young children in botanical art-related activities, consider adding Peggy Ashbrook’s article to your reference library.
Ashbrook, Peggy. 2008. The early years: first explorations in flower anatomy. Science and Children. 45(8): 18-20.
- Science is Simple: Over 250 Activities for Children 3-6 (2003)
by Peggy Ashbrook
- Science is Simple: Over 250 Activities for Preschoolers (Large-print edition, 2010) by Peggy Ashbrook
- Royalty-free images by Pierre-Joseph Redouté for the classroom.