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Teaching plant knowledge in school classes

Image credit: © Clarissa Braun

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Clarissa Braun Sep 08, 2021
How much do we know about plants? What plants grow in our garden? What plants grow on our balcony? Do you treat them the right way? And which of these plants can we use for salads and cooking? And which of them are inedible? Which of them can I enjoy, but are very dangerous for my pets? Which of them can cause allergic reactions? And which of them are really poisonous? And which of them are both, but perhaps quite valuable medicinal plants? Which of them, with proper use, can fight diseases really quickly?

Why do we often not know the answers? Why can't we do much with the helpful plants right next to us?

Maybe because it was not common for us to deal with plants. Or maybe we didn't have the opportunities as a child either. Wouldn't it have been helpful then to integrate this valuable knowledge into the school curriculum? To give all children a certain basis about plant knowledge? Wouldn't it be easy to integrate this into the school curriculum and apply later in life?

Not everyone is surrounded as a child at home by people who have a green thumb or a large plant business. But still, everyone comes into contact with countless plants every day, consciously or unconsciously. Which in turn makes knowledge about these organisms an essential part of our everyday lives.

Blogs, video platforms and the like are already doing a good job. The only problem is that in doing so, someone is already interested on their own and has probably actively searched for a plant or an effect. People who don't often search for similar topics are unlikely to come across it. That's why it would be important to integrate plant knowledge more into the general education taught in school.

Due to the abundance of curriculum and time feasibility, it may be difficult to implement a separate course on plant science. But in biology classes or medicine classes, and of course in cooking classes and similar compulsory courses, a section just for green knowledge could be made available each year.
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Creative contributions

Idea - "plant petting" in primary school

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Juran Sep 14, 2021
I would suggest each child chooses their favorite plant from the catalogue at the beginning of their primary education.
Plants that the children could choose would be domestic plants naturally occurring in that region, with well-defined characteristics, soil requirements, and needs. They could choose plants in the range from the ones you don't need to care about to the ones that need everyday care. Children which tend to care more about things would probably choose the latter and vice versa.
The plants would then be seeded in the school garden (most of the schools have outdoor space) with the help of professionals. Kids would be thought how to take care of their plants and get the "petting guide".

Since primary school lasts 8 years in my country, that's enough for any plant to grow big. That way, kids can see the progress of their plants and learn how to take care of nature, farm, plow, etc. It would be educational and could be used to teach kids many life lessons. It's also important to make it an easy task for the kids, so that they have time to do other obligatory and extra things in school.

Learning about local flora the same way we learn about animals

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Manel Lladó Santaeularia
Manel Lladó Santaeularia Sep 08, 2021
Hi Clarissa, thanks for posting this idea! This topic is definitely important and extremely overlooked in most educational systems from what I know. I agree that it would be important to include plant knowledge in the study curriculum in order to complement the student education. However, I think that one of the main limitations to educate on plants is the fact that there are an insane amount of different plants, and they don't always have very characteristic traits to differentiate them or singularize them. If you think about how children study animals, there is always a "spectacle" component in seeing their distinctive physical characteristics, their behaviour, even their sounds. That makes children clearly differentiate the different animals and learn stuff about them. Unluckily, plants are "less interesting" in this regard. Mostly because they don't move or make sounds, which makes them more "boring". However, I believe that children should be taught about the local flora in their area the same way we teach them about animals. With this I mean that we should teach them the most distinctive traits (color, flowers, size) and also what makes them special, in the sense of whether they are poisonous, they are used for medicine or food, what other properties they have, etc. Trying to associate each plant with 1-2 specific traits would help better recognize and remember them. Maybe kids could have a favorite plant as well, not only a favorite animal! The sense of doing that with the local flora is that kids could then be able to identify what they have around them and care about their environment. Obviously, this could be extended to other plants around the world, since there probably will be more interesting plants to talk about. But I believe starting with the local flora would be ideal.

Can we discuss other ways in which we could make the plants more attractive when teaching about them?

Emotional and social development through plant parenting.

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VAIBHAV KUMAR
VAIBHAV KUMAR Sep 19, 2021
This is a fundamental field of study in the earlier education system for the emotional and social development of a child. Teaching about the science of plants is not enough but we also need to know about the consciousness of plants too. Plants help to boost our mental and physical health in a way we could never imagine. All those varieties of wonderful colours, shapes and sizes that we see in different types of plants teach us that beauty does lies within. We start to see beauty in everything around us and create a positive aura around us. That is not only good for us but also for the ones who are close to us.
Plant parenting teaches us about the sense of responsibility, about someone's well being, and it evolves the emotions of care. It is about selfless nature that needs to be developed into a child's consciousness. It makes humans humble and caring in society.
Indulging in planting is as good a having a pet animal. Plants could be a very good company as an adult we often feel lonely and depressed, having a plant could help us tackle through our tough times.
I have overcome many emotional roller coasters of my life just by being around my plants and having a walk through my terrace garden.
The joy in seeing your plant growing a new leaf is similar to the butterflies your feel when you are with your loved ones. All the parents could relate to this as have had to experience the wonderful journey of growth of their young ones.
You could give them different names and talk to them, share your life events with them, they will be there to listen. They make you feel strong and valued.
And with all this joy you learn to tackle the grief in life with them too. When an old plant dies or a leaf is shed you feel bad but that pain and loss is not permanent all things that have grown must have to end. This is one of the important lessons you learn from being a plant parent and young minds need to learn this from nature.
Plants make humans more humane!
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Povilas S
Povilas Sa month ago
Beautifully said!:)

Ethnobotanical knowledge as a foundation for self-reliance class

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Povilas S
Povilas S Sep 09, 2021
Plant-related knowledge could serve as a good cornerstone for survivalism/self-reliance class. Self-reliance as a separate class/subject per se is missing in all the ordinary schools (correct me if you know a school where it is implemented). The closest widely encountered thing are various scouting squads that are part of the after-school activities. Since they are not mandatory, not everyone gets familiarized with the subject.

Why self-reliance as a separate subject in schools is a good idea: Currently, most if not all school programs are oriented towards survival in the contemporary socio-economical systems of the world. There's very little if any attention placed on individuality and self-reliance (surviving outside of or independently from the system). If we want a society of free, independent individuals, self-reliance should be a number one emphasis. Otherwise, the person will always have to think of how to serve the system (which he/she was born into and not created themselves) to survive.

Why plant-related knowledge is useful for self-reliance: Plants grow everywhere, they are abundant, stationary and all of them can be used practically in one way or another. Most importantly - wild plants are usually free to gather and consume unless they are endangered. Even in urban areas you can find many useful "free-ranging" plants. In contrast to hunting and fishing, plant gathering is cruelty-free (or if you insist otherwise, it’s a comparably soft type of cruelty then). In addition to the gathering of wild plants, gardening and indoor growing skills can be passed at such a class. Plants can be used not only for food but for a variety of other purposes – healing, building, dyeing, etc.

Of course, a self-reliance class could and should encompass a variety of important topics, not only plant-related ones, but ethnobotanical knowledge could definitely take a big part of such a class.


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Samuel Bello
Samuel Belloa month ago
Good point. The self-reliance courses might be more appropriate if taught to high school students and not to much younger pupils as suggested by the main idea of this session.
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Povilas S
Povilas Sa month ago
Samuel Bello I don't agree actually, I think self-reliance should be taught from a very young age. Children are usually interested in topics like that and are up for some "scouting adventures", they also learn quicker and more easily the subjects that they are interested in and especially those that have direct practical value. Skills you learn at a very young age usually stay with you all your life and it's easier to build more complicated knowledge on top of that.

Potted plants in classrooms for each student to take care of

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Michaela D
Michaela D Sep 28, 2021
Clarissa, thank you for raising this amazing subject! I agree with Juran that as important it is to know more about recognizing plants, it is equally important to take care of them. I have heard of school gardens before. Another idea would be "personal plants" in pots in the classroom. Each student could choose the plant they want (as Juran suggested) and then they would be responsible to take care of them at least for one year (or more if they start by seeding).

This would teach the students to take care of plants, to be responsible, to feel rewarded when their own plant grows, and more as Vaibhav beautifully described. This would be especially beneficial for children who are not good students. When their plants are healthy, their confidence will be boosted and they will have little pleasure at school.

To add some extra fun, each kid could paint and decorate their own clay pots. On top of everything, classrooms would have a much better feeling with so many plants in colorful pots!

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General comments

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Samuel Bello
Samuel Belloa month ago
Well, plants are simply not as interesting as animals. Their features will make them harder to remember for children. It is probably more practical to introduce information about plants to their curriculum when they are a bit older. The most interesting plant topics can be added earlier though.