Saturday, June 15, 2013

The green stuff

We have been busy here "planting lots of seeds" since we got back from our big holiday. One of the things we have been studying is the wonderful world of all things green (and sometimes purple or white or...) - plants!

Generally speaking, when we do a unit of science, I find Video Boy knows HEAPS of stuff and Wombat Girl knows a bit. And generally speaking, we don't have heaps of written work lying around to show our homeschool inspector guy, so I take the chance to get the kids to write down a bit of their knowledge.

So what works for us (mostly) is lapbooks. It can be tricky finding appropriate lapbook/mini-books for highschoolers, but I found this great one on Botany (all scientific like) which was linked to a book we actually owned (and I highly recommend) the Usborne Internet-Linked Science Encyclopedia, which has way more than just plants!

I supplement the lapbook work with worksheets I have collected during my years as a high school science teacher (which is great if I have to work outside the home - I can just print off one or two and leave them with the book and BAM! Science done).

In biology, we need the kids to understand the relationship between the structure of a living thing and the function of a particular part. A table is often a useful way to display this information:

While we were looking at leaves, I got the kids to colour (is that art?) and glue together this fabulous 3D leaf model, which I could not find anywhere on the interwebs, so you get my PDF copy (you're welcome).

We also enjoyed watching some great videos on plants:

Apart from all this "knowledge" we used plants as the basis for doing more science. The scientific method. Cows Moo Softly.

What? Change one thing, Measure something as a result of that change, keep everything else the Same.

We looked at what seeds needed to germinate. We brainstormed and came up with a couple of testable hypothesis and then designed an experiment that would test these.

Turns out plants need water to germinate and they don't need light, but they will need light to grow once they've germinated

We then used this website to write up our results in the standard scientific report format.

We also did some "follow the recipe" practical activities:

Slice a celery stalk up the middle, to about halfway.
Put in pretty coloured water (use food colouring).

Wombat Girl's hypothesis was that she would get orange leaves (red and yellow mixing)

But the dye only travels up the side the xylem vessels are one - half blue and half red!
Or half red, half yellow.
We also observed germination in borlotti beans:

And I found this FANTASTIC resource on botanical drawing (art really ticked this time!). We have drawn leaves, flowers, used shading, stippling, done watercolour and lino cuts (remember them?). (part two is here!).

I ordered in a beautiful botanical drawing book from the library:

And it wouldn't really be plants unless we actually went out and looked at some in real life. Don't forget, every living thing can be named scientifically with two parts - Genus (always capitalised) and species (never capitalised) (binomial nomenclature or informally known as Latin name). They should be italicised when in normal text (bit difficult on Facebook!).

Allocasuarina littoralis (black or coastal sheoak)

Banksia ericifolia (heath banskia)

 Baeckea sp.

Epacris microphylla (coral heath)

Drosera spatulata (rosy sundew) 
Lambertia formosa (mountain devil)
Banskia spinulosa (hairpin banksia)

Eucalyptus haemostoma (scribbly gum) - it was Mother's Day!!!

We had such a lovely time on the walk and learning about plants in general. Hope you found some good resources and inspiration too!


  1. Some great ideas here. Thank you.

  2. This is such wonderful timing! My 12 yr old son just came to me this week and said, "Mom, I think we need to study botany. I know a lot about insects and other animals, but almost nothing about the plant world."

    Thanks for setting me up for our next science unit!

    1. So glad it is helpful! I'd like to claim the timing, but that would be a stretch, I think!

  3. Fabulous! Such a well rounded lesson!

    Are all the flower pictures recent? Are there really flowers blooming there now?

    1. Yes - all those pics were taken on Mother's Day - early May. That's the great thing about Australian flora - there is something flowering all year round. We don't have deciduous trees (well, a couple in Tasmania), so winter might not be as spectacular as spring, but there's always something blooming!

    2. Amazing! That is hard to fathom considering how dead winter is around here. By spring my soul craves color.


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