If you like to tell stories about plants but come up against students who are indifferent towards botanical subjects, consider the strategies suggested by professor Rob Reinsvold in Why Study Plants? Why Not?.
In his short 2.5-page editorial, Reinsvold (1999) provides an overview of how students learn about plants in elementary school, middle school and high school and how what they learn contributes to their thinking that biology is primarily about humans and animals.
To make plants more interesting to students, Reinsvold (1999) suggests educators try the following:
- Take advantage of society’s obsession with “the biggest and the best”
(p. 3). Introduce students to the largest known creosote bush, the oldest living tree, the largest living organism, etc. and relate them to comparable examples in the animal world. Reinsvold talks about hosting an Organismal Olympics. You can learn more about this in his paper.
- Show students that plants are active using time-lapse photography.
- Explain how people use plants.
- Talk about money. Discuss plant products as traded commodities.
- Discuss how plant research has contributed to our knowledge about genetics, growth, development, biodiversity and climate change.
Reinsvold (1999) includes in his editorial a list of principles proposed by the American Society of Plant Physiologists. These principles address what the Society thinks every student and citizen should know about plants. An updated version of this list is available on the website of the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB). (Note: The Society changed its name since Reinvold’s editorial was published).
The principles proposed by the ASPB have been aligned with the National Research Council’s Life Science Standards. Educators may be especially interested in the bookmarks the Society created around these twelve principles. These double-sided bookmarks are available for free in limited quantities each month. Go to the Society’s Education page to learn more about the bookmarks, the Standards and the Principles of Plant Biology.
Reinsvold, R. 1999. Why study plants? Why not? Science Activities. 36: 3-5
- Seeing Plants Equally
- How to explain why people need plants
- Humans First, Then Animals, Then Plants
- How Textbooks Contribute to Plant Blindness
Remembering Dr. James Wandersee
Dr. James Wandersee was a professor of biology education and one of the researchers to coin the term “plant blindness”. In 2009 I had the opportunity to communicate with Dr. Wandersee via email. I told him about ArtPlantae and we discussed some of my ideas. He was very encouraging and supportive. This weekend I was saddened to learn of Dr. Wandersee’s passing. I can’t read or write the phrase “plant blindness” without thinking of our email exchanges and his encouraging words. Dr. Wandersee was 67.