Activity: Becoming A Weed Expert
While waiting for the plant specimens to dry out in the plant press, students (as individuals or in pairs) will investigate one common schoolyard weed. The investigation should lead to further inquiry of the
To begin this investigation, lead a discussion with the students about the importance of becoming an expert in a particular area and sharing the knowledge they gain. Each student will become an expert with one
plant that has been discussed in class. Depending on the ability level of your students and the time you want to spend on this portion, you may choose to assign each plant to one student or a pair of
students. Students may choose their own plant; however, it is suggested that you have the students pull the plant name from a hat.
Explain the required sections each paper must contain. At this time a grading rubric should be presented to the students so they are aware of the requirements for this assignment. The recommended sections
of the paper are as follows:
- The common name, scientific name, plant family, range, habitat and origin of the plant can be featured as bulleted points of interest in the paper. Or you may choose to have that information written out
within the body of the paper.
- Description: The student should include a detailed description of the plant in his/her research paper. This description should include his/her observations of the plant as well as information they
found in various resources (see previous section). The information from the additional resources will not only contain some information the student may have missed upon first examination, it will allow the
student to familiarize him/herself with the scientific terms associated with plants and plant parts.
- Scientific Drawing: The research paper should contain a drawing of the plant in its natural habitat. It should be noted that this is not an art activity; it is a way of collecting scientific data. By
creating detailed drawings of the plant, the student will notice more characteristics of the plant. Only accept precise drawings. Remind the students that drawing organisms in their natural
surrounding is a profession.
- Reproductive Biology: This section of the paper should explain the reproductive process of the plant including methods of pollination.
- Cultural Relevance: What significance does the plant have in a particular societyís culture?
- Ecology: Describe the habitat of the plant including the soil type, the climate, and organisms found on or near the plant.
- Traditional uses: Are there any traditional uses (ceremonial, food, medicine, craft) associated with the plant? This would be an appropriate area for the student to interview a family member or a person of
an older generation about any traditional uses of the plant.
- Current Scientific Research: It is important for the student to find information regarding science surrounding their plant. Does the scientific information support the traditional use of the plant?
For example, does current scientific research support or deny herbal medicines.
- Further Point of Inquiry: The student should end the paper by discussing a further point of inquiry. After learning about his/her plant, the student should develop a question that can be tested using the
After gathering all the information and synthesizing it into a coherent paper, the student should present their information to the class. This can be done in a variety of ways; a five-minute show and tell, a
power point presentation, a poster, etc. However, it may be advantageous to have the students delve into their inquiry projects. Then the plant research information would be presented along with the
inquiry project results.
Some suggested inquiry projects are:
- Why do some dandelions have bigger leaves than others?
- Does ginger have antibacterial qualities?
- Which pollinators regularly visit the plant?
- A photo essay of the plant throughout its life cycle could be constructed.
- Which components of the plant allow it to be a pioneer species?
- A comparison of seed dispersal between two of the same plants.
Assessing the inquiry projects
The students could present their projects in a variety of ways. A simple lab report may serve your needs, however, you may consider a poster, powerpoint presentation, or
any other creative mode of communication the student develops. Use a rubric to assess the content of the presentation.