3. Focus on local plants
How well do your pupils know the plants of the local area? Do you or your pupils know what plants of interest grow in the vicinity of the school? Perhaps the school should develop a list of local plants and collect information about them. This could be an interesting and valuable ongoing project to do with your class or school. Case Study 3 shows how one teacher did this.
Once your pupils have increased their knowledge of local plants, you could use this knowledge to plan and design a nature trail (see Key Activity), which will make it easier for next year’s pupils to learn about local plants. Projects such as this allow pupils to transfer learning from one context to another, to make decisions and to work closely with others. This enables pupils to develop skills that help them to become cooperative members of the community.
Undertaking a project like this can be daunting if you have not done it before. You will need to plan carefully and not worry if it does not go exactly as you planned. The important thing is to think about the experience: What went well? What would you change next time? What did you enjoy? Most importantly, did this activity allow your pupils to be active learners?
Case Study 3: Knowing your local plants
At Akaa-Buem Roman Catholic Primary the teacher came into the class with samples of local plants collected from around the school. Pupils struggled to identify most of the plants. Yet the week before, they had brainstormed a list of 52 local plants in 15 minutes. They knew the names, but could not always associate the correct name with a specific plant. There was a problem here.
The teacher suggested that her class could increase their knowledge of local plants and also produce a resource for other pupils in the school. She explained that the pupils would be responsible for developing an accurate checklist of all the plants they could name and identify in the local area. Then she helped them draw up a plan of how they would approach this, by giving them these questions:
- Which plants are you going to include?
- What information are you going to give about each plant? (e.g. shape of leaves, where it grows, does it have flowers? how big is it? is it useful? do any animals eat it? are there any stories about it?)
- What do you already know about each plant?
- How will you find out more about each plant?
- How will you present this information?
- How will you organise yourselves to do this task as efficiently as possible?
Her pupils organised themselves into groups, each with responsibility for one area. They set themselves a timetable.
The pupils responded well to the challenge of increasing their knowledge of local plants. They presented their work to the school in an assembly and also invited parents to come and see what they had learned. Everyone praised their work and the way they had worked together.
The teacher explained that this is the kind of work done by trained botanists. She told her pupils that they were thinking and behaving like scientists.
Resource 3: The gosenga has an example of a common local plant.
Key Activity: Mapping a local nature trail
A nature trail is a path that can be walked and which includes places where interesting trees and other plants can be seen. As well as a map that shows sites of interest, a trail often has an information brochure or pamphlet that gives additional interesting information.
Work with your pupils to plan a nature trail near your school. Resource 4: Developing a nature trail gives more detailed advice for organising this activity, as well as some of the safety precautions you might need to take account of.
Groups of pupils could each plan, design and prepare a page for part of the nature trail. (If you have access to a computer and printer, your pupils could use these to help them produce a final version. You might also be able to include photos from a cellphone or camera.)
Later, you and your pupils might want to assess the trail and even think of ways you could improve on your first attempt (perhaps you could survey the opinions of other pupils who use the nature trail).