Back to school? Educational Resources for plant biology – Activities and Short Videos

Many schools and universities are embarking on a new academic year, so it’s a good time to remind you of some of the great resources available to help you teach (or learn) about plant biology. Many of these and others can be found at the ASPB’s Education and Outreach page and at the Education and Outreach hub of You can also find plant biology educational resources at the American Phytopathological Society’s Education Center and the website of the Botanical Society of America.

Today we focus on activities and short videos. Activities stimulate curiosity and can support the process of the scientific method (see figure). A short video during a class or lecture period can help students to visualize the concepts being introduced, make connections between these new concepts and the world around them, or just introduce a bit of levity and fun.Picture2

We’re busy behind the scenes at Plantae.Org making all of our educational materials easier to find and use. Let us know if you’ve got a favorite you’d like to nominate for inclusion in our revised site!

Hands-on activities, various ages

Younger children

My Life as a Plant: Education and Research Coloring Book

School age – Program that connects students doing hands-on experimentation with online mentors

Wisconsin Fast Plants – Instructions for activities, students of all ages

Fast Plants. Lab Practical: The effects of gibberellic acid

Science and Plants for Schools – Instructions for activities, primary to post-secondary

SAPS. Root tip mitosis practical protocol for A-level biology

SAPS. Lab Practical. Gravitropism: The role for roots

SAPS. Auxin: Investigating the effects of IAA on root growth

12 Activities for 12 Principles of Plant Biology Inquiry-based activities, ages 11 – 14

ABRC: Greening the Classroom – Arabidopsis project modules for grades 8-10

NABT inquiry: Mysterious Mycorrhizae?

I-MOLD: Interactive Model of Leaf Decomposition

Drought: EarthLabs for Educators

USDA Teacher Resources: Wildflowers and Pollinators

Science Buddies: Plant Biology Science Fair Project Ideas (& more)

It’s all in the touch! Plant biology curriculum grades 5 – 8

ASPB Worksheet: Phyllotaxis & Fibonacci

ASPB Worksheet: Plants in Your Pants, Genes in Your Jeans

Short, engaging videos about plant biology

Crash Course Biology: Plant Cells (10 min), Photosynthesis (13 min), The Sex Lives of Nonvascular Plants (10 min), Vascular Plants = Winning (12 min), The Plants and the Bees: Plant Reproduction (10 min)

It’s OK to Be Smart: Which Came First – Flowers or Bees? (5 min), Do Plants Think? (6 min),  Your Salad is Trying to Kill you (6 min), How Many Trees Are There? (6 min)

Veritasium: The Most Amazing Thing About Trees (7 min), Where Do Trees Get Their Mass From? (4 min), Inside the Svalbard Seed Vault (9 min)

Minute Earth: Why (nutrient) poor places are more diverse (3 min), The Secret Social Life of Plants (2 min), How do Trees Survive Winter? (3 min), Why are leaves green? (Part 1 and Part 2) (2 min each), The Real Reason Leaves Change Color In the Fall (2 min), Which Came First – The Rain or the Rainforest? (3 min), Who Are Flowers Trying To Seduce? (3 min), Orchids: The Masters Of Lying, Cheating & Stealing (4 min)

BBSRC: How plant science is rewriting our future stories (3 min),  How plants crawled onto the sea (2 min),  Plant power: Plants versus explosives (2 min), Plant power: Plants versus petrol (2 min), Plant power: Plants versus fish (2 min), Plant power: Plants versus floods (2 min), Plant power: Plants versus obesity (2 min), The foods of the future (2 min)

PBS NewsHour: To combat climate change, these scientists are turning CO2 into rock (2016, 9 min), The end of bananas as we know them? (2016, 5 min), Restoring San Francisco Bay’s wetlands one native plant at a time (2016, 6 min), The secret life of plants — and ‘Lab Girl’ author Hope Jahren,  (2016, 6 min), Medical marijuana research comes out of the shadows (2016, 9 min), How to grow an Ebola vaccine with a tobacco plant (2015, 6 min), California’s water-starved sequoias show signs of stress (2015, 6 min), Why growing lettuce in New York City is a growing business (2015, 8 min),  Is it nuts to grow almonds during a drought? (2015, 8 min), Why does almost half of America’s food go to waste? (2015, 9 min),  Italian olive trees are withering from this deadly bacteria (2015, 7 min), The phytoplankton that brought Earth to life (2014, 5 min),  Paradise found: A history of pineapple, sugar and seeds in Hawaii (2013, 3 min), Balancing Costa Rica’s Farming With Preservation with Nature (2013, 9 min),   California Works to Rescue Franciscan Manzanita Plant from Extinction (2011, 7 min)

Piffle: What is a GMO? (5 min)

Washington University St. Louis: Why don’t plants grow upside down? (3 min)Picture4

HHMI Interactive: Popped Secret: The Mysterious Origin of Corn (18 min)

SAPS: Animation – Transport of water and sugar in plants (4 min)

BBC Video library – Plants (several clips of various lengths)

Duc Phan Tran, University of Halle: Xanthomonas (computer animation of infection process) (6 min)

IntoBiology: From the cell to the planet in 90 seconds (1.5 min)

Borlaug Global Rust Initiative: The life cycle of wheat stem rust (7 min)

CIMMYT: Why invest in wheat research (5 min)

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh: Moving forward from ash dieback (3 min)Picture3

Kew Gardens: The forgotten home of coffee (6 min)

BBC Unplugged: Exploding seeds, slo mo (5 min)

Monash University: Feeding the future featuring Ros Gleadow (4 min)

University of Glasgow: Plant Science Investigation (PSI) (CSI spoof) (7 min)

Science magazine: Forest health in a changing world (2.5 min)

TED-Ed: How a single-celled organism almost wiped out life on Earth (Anusuya Willis, 4 min), Can plants talk to each other? (Richard Karban, 5 min), The simple story of photosynthesis and food (Amanda Ooten, 4 min)

Encyclopedia of Life: Invasive Species, stories of biodiversity on the move (7 min)

American Museum of Natural History: Green grow the salamanders (6.5 min)

Ramesh Boonratana: Mangrove forests and vivipary (2.5 min)

International Plant Nutrition Institute: The Role of 4R Nutrient Stewardship in Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emission (5 min)

Biolapse: Carnivora Gardinum (carnivorous plant timelapse) (4 min)

Collections and channels

Chris Martine’s Plants are Cool too series – several videos (7 – 15 min)

Claire Hopkins Brilliant Botany video series – several videos (most < 5 min)

Many time-lapse videos can be found at Roger Hangarter’s Plants in Motion site (most < 3 min)

A now-closed plant video competition ChloroFilms features some great contributed videos

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO): Dozens of videos in many languages – including Year of Pulses videos

IFAD: International Fund for Agricultural Development. Videos about farming challenges around the world

Smithsonian Channel: Plants

CABI videos: Many videos about invasive species and agronomic practices

AgriumInc: Fertilizer 101 (8 videos about fertilizer)

Video featuring songs

The Cambridge iGEM team: The Gibson asssembly song (4 min)

University of California Irvine: Chemists Know (Parody of Let it Go from Frozen) (4 min)

Musical Cells: Power Pack: The mitochondria rock song (4 min)

Biology Fortified Inc: Play it hard – Norman Borlaug 100 year tribute (3 min)

Kamoun Lab: Fifi the oomycete (2 min) and You can call me Al (for Albugo) (4 min)


Jonikas Lab ♫ Scientists Are Saving The World With Puppets And Algae ♫ (3.5 min)

HarvestPlus: Better nutrition from high-iron beans (5 min)

Kris Holmes: La Bloomba (2.5 min)

Science Rap Academy: They grow (2 min)

ZhengLabProductions: Bad Project (Lady Gaga Parody) (5 min)

Massague Lab: Don’t Stop Pipetting (5 min)

CohenfordMU: The Lab Song (Bruno Mars Parody) (3.5 min)

Weigelworld: Shake it off (parody) (4 min)

Weigel Style (Gangnam Style Parody) (5 min)

And many more science-y song parodies can be found on YouTube….


Image source: ArchonMagnus

Up next: Longer videos – lectures, seminars and TED talks

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