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The Power of Plants

A Curriculum Resource for Ontario Teachers

Elementary, Middle

Description

The Power of Plants is a collection of six complete lesson plans that raises awareness about the importance of biodiversity in everyday life.

Lesson 1: Two classes - Students will explore these different art forms by creating two artworks using the same plant as a reference. Artists’ statements will express the intentions and design decisions inspired by the art form and floral specimen.

Lesson 2: - One week - Students will collect and preserve plant specimens to create a class herbarium and explore the different uses for a herbarium.

Lesson 3: Three classes - In this activity, students will explore some mechanisms used by plants to disperse their seeds by creating model fruit and evaluating the relationship between the fruit’s structure and its dispersal ability.

Lesson 4: Five classes - Students will explore the concept of “food miles”, visit a farm, farmer’s market, or grocery store and write a newspaper article or editorial summarizing their findings.

Lesson 5: Four classes - Students will examine the leaves, identify the species, make bark rubbings, measure girth, calculate age, and approximate the height of a single tree. Tree profiles are then collected to create a class encyclopedia.

Lesson 6: One class - In this activity, students will examine tree rings and discover the secrets preserved within its growth rings.

 

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

The following skills are explicitly taught:

  • the collecting and drying of plants specimens
  • the drawing of botanical illustrations
  • the estimation of tree height
  • the examination of tree rings

Strengths

The strengths of the resource are:

  • helpful external links
  • innovative, interesting and engaging activities
  • excellent format with short activity descriptions and teacher background information
  • curriculum links provided for each activity
  • a variety of student groupings
  • the inclusion of assessment tools
  • the inclusion of resources and materials for the teacher to use

Weaknesses

This is an excellent resource.  It is teacher friendly and complete with all of the necessary materials.  The only weakness would be the lack of accommodations for students with learning difficulties and that the learning materials are centered solely around Ontario.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This resource would be an excellent tool for a classroom teacher looking to integrate Science into more subjects like Math and Language.  The final products, like the classroom herbarium or the tree encyclopedia, that are produced could be shared with other classes or even placed in the school library.

Relevant Curriculum Units

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  • Yukon Territory

Themes Addressed

  • Citizenship (2)

    • Ecological Footprint
    • General Guide to Taking Action
  • Ecosystems (2)

    • Appreciating the Natural World
    • Invasive Species
  • Food & Agriculture (1)

    • Local Food
  • Land Use & Natural Resources (2)

    • Forests
    • Planting Native Species

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

During the Global Fruit Salad activity students explore the reality of the importation of large amounts of our food.  They then examine the benefits of eating locally.  

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

The Global Fruit Salad activity clarifies very well the interplay of the three dimensions with a class discussion and a worksheet.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Very Good
Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Good

The majority of the activities in the resource focus on learning about the habitat surrounding the school and species within it.  The one activity, Global Fruit Salad, does develop ideas towards making a positive change in the student's personal eating habits.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Satisfactory

The focus of the resource is on building knowledge and capacity in the students.  The opportunity to clarify beliefs and express their values is not a focus within this resource.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered

This is not a focus of this resource.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Very Good

The majority of the activities provided within this resource encourage an appreciation of the natural world.  The collection of plants and the work with a specific tree will help to develop an awareness of the natural world that surrounds the students every day.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Very Good

The collection of plants, the working with one specific tree and the visit to a farmer`s market, grocery store or farm will help to develop an appreciation of their community and make the discussion in the classroom more relevant for the students.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Poor/Not considered

This is not a focus of the resource.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

Throughout the discussions and activities the students are allowed choice and the option of expressing their ideas.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Very Good

The activities within the resource develop the sustainability principles while exploring different subject areas.  The students touch on concepts from Math, Visual Arts, Health, Science and Language with a variety of engaging activities.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Satisfactory
Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Good

The activities provided are engaging and innovative.  They touch on a variety of learning styles and competencies.  There are suggestions made in order to adapt the lessons for younger learners.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Very Good

The activities allow the students to directly experience creating a herbarium and drawing botanical art like a real botanist.  These creative and engaging activities provide them with experiences that are in a real world context.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

There are a variety of grouping formats within the resource from individual work to whole class discussions; however, cooperative learning skills are not taught.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Very Good

Throughout the resource there are "Assessment as Learning Tool" sections provided for the teacher with relevant questions and suggestions in order to evaluate the learning of the students.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory

There are opportunities for the students to make presentations and share their knowledge.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Very Good

Whenever possible the resource provides concrete examples from the Royal Ontario Museum as well as real world cases where the activities of the students are being carried out by professionals.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Good

There are opportunities for student choice within different activities such as the type of newspaper article they wish to write or the type of presentation they wish to make to the class.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.