- Learn about the uses and benefits of plants
- Review the basic steps of plant growth
- Understand the concept of native versus non-native plants
- Plant Purposes Research Activity Sheet printable
- Computers for student use
- Whiteboard and markers
Make copies of the Plant Purposes Research Activity Sheet printable for each student.
Step 1: Tell students that plants perform countless roles in our communities, our country, and our world. Some of these roles are as simple as bringing food to our plates, and some are as complex as ensuring the health of the entire planet.
Step 2: Have students brainstorm ways that plants are important to humans, animals, and the environment. Keep track of these by writing them on the board. The list will include providing safe and nutritious food, medicine, building materials, paper products, pigments, oxygen for breathing, atmospheric balance, physical and mental health, etc.
Step 3: Review with students the basic steps of plant growth. After a seed germinates, a sprout forms and begins to grow. Most plants need light, water, and food to create fuel; as it receives these, the plant develops. Over time, leaves (or similar structures) form and increase the production of energy for the plant. Eventually, the plant develops reproductive parts — in many cases, these are flowers. Next comes pollination, by which pollen is carried to the egg, usually with the help of a pollinator, such as an insect or a bird. Once this occurs, the egg is fertilized and can begin to mature into a seed. Eventually, these seeds will be dispersed, a process that can happen in many ways: some seeds are blown in the wind, some are spread by birds, etc. If the seed lands in a fertile environment, the entire process can begin anew.
Step 4: Introduce students to the subject of native plants if they are unfamiliar with them. These are plants that developed in a certain region and are therefore naturally suited to that particular soil and climate. For example, a saguaro cactus is native to the Arizona desert, but the sugar maple is not; one needs warm, dry weather, and the other needs cool, wetter weather. Ask students to consider what could happen to native plants if the climate changes. If a region becomes too hot or cold for a plant species, it might not be able to adapt and survive. If a plant species dies in a certain region, the wildlife that depends on it will suffer as well.
Step 5: Distribute copies of the Plant Purposes Research Activity Sheet printable and guide students through the instructions. Students will research native plants in their community and how they depend on climatic and soil conditions. If you happen to live in a diverse ecological region, consider limiting their area of focus to a particular park or location. Students will then choose a specific native plant, learn its characteristics, and draw it.
Lead the class in a field study about native plants in your region. In advance, have students learn about 10 native plants that might be found in a local park or similar location. Next, travel to that park and perform a survey, “diagnosing” the native plants from a horticultural perspective. Students will identify the plants there, determine if they are healthy or struggling, and create a plan for improving the park to better support the soil quality, plant life, and community that surrounds the area.