Plant sciences is a field of study that focuses on plant growth, reproduction, evolution, and adaptation. It is critical in providing food and nutrition to the growing global population, especially in the face of climate change. In addition, plant sciences also provide us with medicine, fibre, and ornamental plants.
Despite its immense contribution to life, children don’t have enough knowledge of plant science, and many are unaware that the food we eat, the medicines we take, and the clothes we wear all come from plants. Children in elementary school between the ages of 7 to 12 are still in the concrete operational stage of development and tend to think abstractly. Therefore, when teaching plant science in elementary schools, it is important to actively involve the students in the learning process to ensure they can easily understand the concepts being taught. Plant science can be a fascinating learning experience for them at a young age. It can help them understand how plants work and what their purpose is, making it an excellent way for them to learn about science, nature, and themselves.
To make studying plant science more effective, educators can implement the following strategies in their teaching approach.
Engage in Hands-On Activities
“Hands-on” learning refers to the process of acquiring knowledge through practical experience. This approach involves students using scientific instruments and interacting directly with their study objects. Hands-on work is believed to provide a more realistic and engaging content experience. Numerous studies have demonstrated that conducting hands-on activities leads to positive motivational outcomes. It is an effective way of exciting young students and raising their curiosity. It can also provide them with practical experiences, helping them to connect better theories and knowledge learned in the classroom to real-world situations.
Some fun experiments that can be conducted include having students plant seeds and observe their germination and growth over time. Another activity could involve growing plants under different conditions, such as in light or dark or wet or dry soil, to observe optimal conditions for plant growth. These experiments not only teach students the stages of a plant’s life cycle or the factors that affect their growth but also help to build their patience as they wait for their seeds to sprout or monitor the plants’ progress.
Establish School Gardens
School gardening is an effective approach to improving students’ understanding of plant science. Gardens provide an excellent science education environment, generating students’ curiosity and motivation to learn. Furthermore, they help bridge the gap between abstract concepts and practical learning experiences and integrate everyday activities with academic content. Additionally, gardens are beneficial in engaging students with food production, making them reflect on production and consumption models, and highlighting the significance of taking care of plants. They serve as a connective space that allows students to see the bigger picture. Students can explore interesting aspects of plants, such as their smell, shapes, textures and other characteristics. Gardening in school provides hands-on learning, increases environmental awareness, and teaches problem-solving skills. Students learn more than just how to grow plants.
Use Demonstration Videos
Teachers can use videos as a tool to achieve better learning outcomes. Videos can be highly effective tools to aid in teaching, as they provide a combination of visual and auditory aids that appeal to young learners and help them process information more naturally. They can make learning fun, encourage critical thinking, and enhance the learning experience by providing sensory stimulation. For elementary students, videos can be especially helpful in understanding complex concepts related to plant science, as they provide an interesting and interactive way to convey ideas. They also assist students in distinguishing primary and secondary information sources when answering questions that require higher thinking skills.
Research has demonstrated that video-based learning yields positive outcomes such as increased motivation and deeper learning. Additionally, it can enhance students’ ability to lead discussions and recognize problems. Topics such as pollination, dispersal of seeds, tropisms, and photosynthesis can be difficult for young students to understand, but videos can simplify these concepts and make them more comprehensible. As students watch and learn from videos, their learning potential increases significantly.
Use Interactive Games
New technology has introduced new opportunities for learning, and research shows that interactive games have educational potential that resonates with teachers and students. Games are an important element of healthy child development, including learning. Interactive games can be an effective tool for teaching young students. They provide an engaging way to learn and help keep lessons fun and interesting. Games allow young students to practice what they know and learn new concepts. They can experiment with different strategies, learn from their mistakes and find solutions to problems. Through games, students can build new skills and confidence, making it a valuable tool in the learning process. In the plant sciences, board games like plant bingo and plant memory match, as well as puzzles and action-based games like plant relay games, can be particularly effective in teaching a range of subjects. Teachers can also enhance their students’ learning experience by introducing educational apps and websites that offer interactive plant science activities and games.
One of the primary goals of the science curriculum should be to encourage and cultivate the curiosity of young individuals while promoting a sense of amazement, enthusiasm, and interest in science. It appears that stories could serve as an effective medium in achieving this sense of wonder, excitement, and interest in science as long as they are pertinent, enjoyable, and engaging. By incorporating storytelling in lessons, teachers can provide an engaging, exciting, and emotionally involving experience for students, which can help break up the monotony of regular teaching methods. This way, students can learn new concepts while enjoying the learning process.
Plant science teachers can use storytelling to help students better understand and retain information about various plant science topics. This can be achieved by telling real-life stories about the accomplishments of plant scientists or by crafting fictional stories about subjects like plant reproduction, plant cell components and functions, plant adaptation, seed dispersal and many more. To be impactful, stories should be well-structured and captivating to keep the audience engaged throughout the narrative.
Take Field Trips
Field trips are educational experiences that take place outside of the classroom at interactive locations. Field trips provide students with the opportunity to gain real-world experience. By participating in such trips, they can connect their knowledge of theory in the classroom with practical experiences. For instance, a visit to a botanical garden can be an exploration of different plants, including their textures, scents, and colours. Observing plants in their natural habitats can also help cultivate a deeper interest level in students. They can use their senses to learn more about plant science, including the sense of smell and touch.
Teachers can involve students in various activities during a field trip, such as recording the names of plants and their unique features or comparing them by noting their similarities and differences. However, what happens after the field trip is equally important. Teachers must reinforce the students’ experiences through discussions, activities, and reading. They need to recognize the significance of post-field trip reflection and debriefing to maximize student interest and learning. Such activities encourage students’ natural curiosity and love for learning. Visiting botanical gardens can also help us appreciate the beauty and science of plants.
Invite Guest Speakers
It can be highly beneficial to invite plant scientists as guest speakers to school events and classes. They can talk about plants and share their experiences from the lab or field with young students. The objectives of inviting guest speakers to schools are to give students an opportunity to apply their classroom learning in real-life situations and to provide them with new experiences. This can help spark the students’ interest in plant science and inspire them while also allowing the scientists to act as role models for the students.
Although concepts in plant science may be difficult to understand, it is important to ensure that they are taught in an exciting and engaging way in order to help elementary school students appreciate the subject.
Teachers should not feel limited in their approach and should be creative in the strategies they employ.
Children who learn about plants at an early age can develop a higher level of curiosity, which can encourage them to explore their surroundings further.
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About the Author
Dennis Baffour-Awuah is a 2024 Plantae Editor, and holds an MPhil in Nuclear Agriculture from the University of Ghana, where he specialized in Mutation Breeding and Plant Biotechnology. He is a passionate science communicator who enjoys promoting scientific innovations. You can find him on X: @dennisgameplay.