Target audience: High school biology
Topics: botany, ethnobotany, antibiotics
The basic design of this investigation is based on the Learning Cycle: Exploration --> Concept Development --> Application. While the second and third components can by interchanged and intermixed, it is important to begin with the Exploration. The following is suggested as a way to find out what students already know about the subject, drawing on their own knowledge as a starting point; it also piques students' interest in the study of plants, which many initially find "boring."
Tell students they have two minutes to make a list of everything they can think of that is made of, or contains, plants. As a caveat, tell them, for example, that their lists should not contain more than two or three foods. To stretch their thinking, tell them they need to list at least 15 (even if they don't reach that number).
Have them turn to one or two people in their area and share their lists. They should add to their list as they hear other ideas.
Go around the room and have each group call off one item on their list, and write them on a transparency (this can be referred to again, whereas something written on the board will be erased.) Words or phrases should not be repeated. Continue until most ideas have been recorded.
Discuss the words and phrases on the transparency:
Explain that students will be put into groups of three and assigned one of the topics to research and make a 5 - 10 minute presentation to the class. Then have students number off, or let them choose their groups.
Have the groups get together for a few minutes,
introduce themselves, and select their topics by drawing from a "hat."
They will be given time and more explicit directions on their projects
in the next class session.
Students will be given two class periods during the next two weeks (depending on the length of time you are devoting to this) to use the library, Internet, telephone for interviews, etc. to research their topic. Other sources of information may include teachers in the appropriate content area, such as art, music; local herbalists, professionals at local laboratories and colleges/universities, health care professionals, etc.
Discuss with the students what should be included in their presentation, for example, their topic, historical background, characteristics of the plants and how these might provide evolutionary advantages to the plant, how the plants are used today, how our lives might be affected if this plant no longer existed. Posters, transparencies, and/or computers may be used for visual props during their presentations.
During the presentations, students are responsible for taking notes and asking questions to be sure they understand the information presented.
Have students conduct an inquiry experiment to explore the antibiotic properties of various plants. Refer to the lab, Biodiversity: The Spice of Life, by Hatcher, et al, in Woodrow Wilson Leadership Program for Teachers, Biology 1999, or Herbal Medicines, by Cheryl Powers.
Concept Development and Application are embedded in the laboratory investigation and the group research projects.
Essay Test: Students are given an essay question that they must prepare in advance. They may use any resources, including their class notes, experimental results, library and/or Internet, etc. to prepare, but may only have the question and, if they choose, a 3"x5" index card with notes for use during the test.
Sample essay questions:
1. A large parcel of land is going to be sold to a developer to build homes and a new shopping mall. As a child, you loved to explore this wooded area, climbing trees, catching insects, picking flowers, and playing in the stream. Now you are the student representative on the town council, and the most informed on the importance of plants to our health and well-being. In light of your past experience in this area, what questions would you have? What information would you want to present to the council before they decide whether to approve this project?
2. Discuss at least three uses of plants, other
than for food. Use at least two specific examples for each use.
Select a particular plant, and describe how would your life be affected
if this plant no longer existed.
experiences: food herbs, medicine and people
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