1. Exploring local plants

What do your pupils know about local resources? This part looks at raising your pupils’ awareness of natural resources – particularly plant resources – that are found in their local area.

A good way to do this is to bring in local experts to talk, as in Case Study 1. Experts bring a specialised knowledge from which both you and your pupils can learn. Using experts also makes learning exciting because it is different.

In Activity 1, you heighten your pupils’ awareness of their local environment through field trips in which they are actively involved in gathering data. (If you are working in an urban area, or it is not safe to let your pupils walk out near the school, you could change the activity to look at food in the market. Ask pupils to each name five foods from plants and to try to find out where the food was grown.)

Case Study 1: Exploring important local resources

Mrs Hlungwane teaches in Hoxane Primary School in Limpopo Province in South Africa and wants her pupils to develop their understanding of their own environment and its natural resources. She has read about local expertise and knowledge about medicinal plants, and thinks looking at local plants, including those used for healing, might be a good way to extend the idea of resources from Section 2. She decides to contact the seven local plant experts who live near the school and invites them to come and be interviewed by her pupils on a set date. They agree to bring some of the important plants growing in the area to show the pupils.

Mrs Hlungwane divides the class into seven groups, each to interview one of the visitors. She discusses with her pupils the importance of showing respect. Together they draw up a list of questions to ask. She suggests that they find out the following three things about each plant:

  • what it is called;
  • where it grows around the village;
  • its food or medicinal properties.

Afterwards, having thanked their visitors and said farewell to them, each group reports back and Mrs Hlungwane writes this information on the chalkboard in three columns:

  • Plants that I find near the school
  • Is this plant cultivated?
  • Do we use this plant? If yes, how do we use it?

(See Resource 1: Plant handout).

Next, they discuss how to protect these plants, as they are an important resource for the community. They decide that learning to identify the plants so that they do not pick them is important. Also, that they should not trample them or damage the locality where they grow.

Finally, Mrs Hlungwane asks the pupils, in groups, to make posters of the main plants, showing the uses of each plant and where it grows.

Activity 1: Finding out about local plant resources

  • The table will help pupils focus on exactly what you want them to do.
  • Ask each pupil to draw a table to record their observations. Draw the table on the board for them to copy.
  • Send them out in pairs into the area surrounding the school for say 30 minutes and ask them to fill in at least five lines of the table. Walk around with your pupils and support them as they work.
  • If pupils don’t know the names of plants, encourage them to describe and/or draw them for later identification.
  • When they return to class, draw a big version of the table on the board.
  • Go around the class and fill in all the pupils’ findings on the big table.
  • Ask the pupils what they have discovered from today’s lesson about the natural environment and the kinds of resources it provides to the community.

Section 4: Investigating the changing environment

2. Working in groups to investigate pollution