What do plants do? Why are different types of plants important? These were the central questions for two plant day activities in Hopewell, NJ.
Leeann Thornton, a plant biology professor at The College of New Jersey, taught third graders about plant diversity and identification. The students learned a few characteristics for identifying tree leaves and worked together to solve the Mystery Tree Challenge. The activity was adapted from an arborday.org tree identification game. After identifying oak, maple, dogwood, and redbud, the students learned about the importance of these trees to humans and nature. Some of the students were so excited about the new information that they were taking identification books outside for recess to learn more trees.
Dr. Thornton also helped preschoolers explore the life cycle of a plant through dancing. The children watched some of the time-lapse photography movies from http://plantsinmotion.bio.indiana.edu to see that plants move around as they grow. They talked about the role of roots, stems, leaves, and flowers before pretending to be growing plants. The children tucked themselves into a tiny seed shape and grew to be tall blooming flowers that dropped new seeds. They were very good at keeping their roots firmly in place while their leaves reached, grew, and swayed in the wind. The next day, several parents commented that their children talked all evening about plant dancing.