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Lesson Plans: Science > Biology > Botany > Patterns in Plants with Shanleya's Quest

Patterns in Plants with Shanleya's Quest
By Thomas J. Elpel

Grade Levels: This lesson was created especially for use with students in grades 3 - 8. It can also be used with high school students, and it has been used successfully in adult botany classes.

      1) Present evolutionary concepts in a metaphorical format young people can relate to.
      2) Enable students to identify eight major families of plants and some of their properties.
      3) Enable students to identify plants as either monocotyledons or dicotyledons.

Background Information: There are plenty of sports heroes and movie stars (both positive and negative) to serve as role models for young people, but have you ever heard of a botany hero? What if a hero or heroine came along to inspire young people to investigate the world around them, stimulating an interest in natural science?

Shanleya's Quest.       Shanleya is just such a heroine in the story Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids Ages 9 to 99. The story communicates botany and evolutionary concepts in a metaphorical format, ideal for the way young people process information. Through the story, students can grasp the fundamentals of the origins of life, the process of evolution, the tree of life, and the immense amount of time that has passed along the way. The story also presents real plant identification skills to enable students to recognize monocots and dicots and to identify eight major families of plants and some of their properties and uses. The companion game is designed to exercise those plant identification skills, anchoring the basic concepts in a way that students may ultimately use them outside the classroom.

Unsure of your own botany skills? Shanleya's Quest includes all the information necessary to present this lesson competently.

Materials Needed:
      Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids Ages 9 to 99: At least one book per class. Additional copies are recommended.
      Shanleya's Quest: Patterns in Plants Card Game: 1 deck of cards for every four players.
      Both are available in retail and wholesale quantities from HOPS Press, LLC

Patterns in Plants Card Game.       Live or silk flowers from the mint, parsley, mustard, pea, lily, grass, rose, and aster families are helpful, but not required. Teachers can find live specimens from the families covered in the book in local gardens or flowerbeds. Floral shops are another potential source of flower samples. Ask for old flowers to use in botany lessons; they will likely give them to you for free. It is also helpful to have an assortment of leaves from grass, flowers, bushes, and broadleaf trees for identifying monocot and dicot characteristics.

Presentation: Bring the class together in a circle, either in the classroom, or preferably outside, to read the story. Multiple copies of the book are helpful so that students can listen to the story (or take turns reading it aloud), while they look at the pictures. Limit the amount of reading to the attention span of your audience. With younger grades, the story may be split up over several days.

Activity One: Plant Family Identification: As you read a chapter about a specific plant family, pass around the wildflower cards from that family, so that students can see samples of the family characteristics. Then play the Plant Patterns Memory Game with the students so they can practice recognizing the family patterns. Instructions for the Memory Game and four other card games are included with each deck of cards.

      Tip: for younger grades, introduce only two to four plant families at a time, and play the Memory Game with only the cards from those families until they are ready for more. The game can be played with several students on a team to work together. As the students develop proficiency with pattern recognition, move on to the more advanced games described with the deck.

Patterns in Plants Quiz.
Patterns in Plants Quiz
Patterns in Plants Answer Sheet
Activity Two: Monocots and Dicots: In the middle of Shanleya's Quest is a comparison of monocotyledons and dicotyledons. Have samples of both monocots and dicots in the classroom so students can examine them and identify which is which.

Activity Three: Flower Parts: Bring real or silk flowers into the classroom, preferably from the families covered in the book, and identify the sepals, petals, stamens, and pistil(s) with the students.

Activity Four: In the Real World: Bring the class outside to practice plant identification skills in the schoolyard, or with permission, in flowerbeds, gardens, weed patches, and parks. Look for monocots and dicots, and look for flowers from each of the plant families covered in the book. Tips: preview the walk ahead of time so you will know in advance what types of flowers the kids may find. Use caution around any possible poisonous species, especially those shown in the game. Keep in mind that there are many more plant families than the eight covered in the book, so a flower may not fit any of the patterns. CAUTION: Do not allow students to eat plant samples.

Activity Five: Evolutionary Concepts: When presenting evolutionary concepts from other lessons throughout the year, refer back to the metaphors presented in Shanleya's Quest to help kids connect with the material.

Assessment: The most important assessment of student performance is in their enthusiasm for the material. The ultimate goal is not merely to make them learn the material, but rather to spark their enthusiasm to want to know more. For the purposes of grading, student performance can also be tested with the Patterns in Plants Quiz. An Answer Sheet is also available.

Additional Resources: For high school and university classes, Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification, also available from HOPS Press, LLC, expands on the evolutionary concepts and plant families covered in Shanleya's Quest, covering more than one hundred families of plants found across North America.

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      Looking for life-changing resources? Check out these books by Thomas J. Elpel:

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Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
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