Teaching your students about the birds and the bees....of plants
My students and I love getting our hands dirty in science class. Hands on activities are one of the best ways to engage students and help them visualize concepts. When introducing the topic of plant reproduction there are a few activities I find helpful to solidify student understanding.
Take your kids on a field trip
One of the first things we do during our plant unit is to take a field trip to the UC Davis Greenhouses. (See pictures below.) Field trips are such a great way for students to experience science in the world around them. My students can relate personally to the topics we discuss during our plant unit AND they are often more invested in projects/experiments when they have an experience to connect it to.
The cactus greenhouse where we saw cacti from the Spiny Forest of Madagascar and Jumping Cholla...
Students loved looking into these pitcher plants...although, they were a little grossed out when our tour guide sliced them open to reveal a bunch of digested dead bugs.
These greenhouses are AMAZING and the staff members are informative and hilarious. If you are looking for a plant-related field trip you may look into your local universities to see if they have greenhouses and/or offer tours.
A few other plant related field trip ideas might include:
-community gardens (coordinate with the head gardener)
-local river, pond, or lake (for observing plant life around water sources)
Plan a dissection
I just say the word dissection and my students get giddy. I typically do at least 2 plant dissections during our plant reproduction unit so students can really visualize different reproductive structures and strategies of various plants. The following video is a dissection of some cones I discovered on a walk with my toddler. (Actually, he discovered them and I grabbed them before he could put them in his mouth.) My students were able to locate the different plant tissues present in this cone which was a great way to tie in our previous unit (on plant structure) to our new unit on plant reproduction.
In addition, I always have my students dissect a flower so they can identify the reproductive structures. This year we used tulips which were easy to dissect, and students were able to clearly identify the reproductive structures. Basically, a plant dissection doesn't have to be complicated or expensive to engage your students.
Interactive Google Slides
After my students have had an opportunity to "play" with plants I introduce the interactive Google slides that I created. Each slide includes an interactive component and students do the following:
-Compare how environmental factors affect reproductive structures and strategies in plants -Compare advantages/disadvantages of asexual and sexual reproduction -Learn that vegetative reproduction produces identical copies of the parent plant -Learn that sexual reproduction in plants involves male and female gametes -Review the steps of pollination, fertilization and fruit production in angiosperms -Label the reproductive parts of a flower -Work with a partner to research the reproductive strategies of a plant of their choice
An answer key, editable quiz, and grading rubric are also included in this resource.
Some slides we complete in class, some can be done at home, and others are completed in small groups. As students continue to work through the slides, we also complete a hands-on project so students can observe some of the topics covered. Some of the activities we've done in the past include:
-building and maintaining a greenhouse
-planting various seeds and comparing germination
-growing and then comparing asexual reproductive strategies of different plants (potatoes, strawberries, tulips etc.)
-using asexual reproductive strategies to clone plants (like cuttings)
Some of these projects take much longer than others so time availability and management is something to be considered. For example, our greenhouse project took several months to complete so it actually ran through different science units. I hope you can use some of the ideas here and if you have plant reproduction projects or tips to share, please share a comment with us!