Field of Science

What makes plants interesting to students?

A long time colleague used to say that it takes a certain mental and emotional maturity and sophistication to appreciate something as subtly interesting as plants. He actually said this to explain the behavior of some of his zoological colleagues, but the Phactor is certain that most of you agree! Here's a link to a nice science education article that attempted to answer the question posed above. Mostly this study found what those of us who have long labored in botanical education have known for a long while; the more like an animal the plant is, the more interest it will generate among the other little animals. For many people ordinary plants just don't register with their perceptions at all; they're plant blind. And as attention spans get shorter, it's getting more difficult to get even college-age students to study plants because even great stuff like tropisms "take too long"! To develop and maintain an interest in plants kids have to be exposed to them, grow them, watch them, have things pointed out to them, all along, not just for a week long science unit once a year. The Phactor had the advantage of having had gardeners for parents and having lived in a sufficiently rural area that exposed you to real nature. You learned early on what to avoid (leaves of three, Mr. Throckmorton's orchards and melons, etc.) and what fruits and nuts were edible. Do your children have pets? Do they have plants? And so our efforts to make plants interesting will continue, although as my colleague suggested, not everyone matures enough to like plants, and they will probably retain their plant blindness forever.


Andrew Lane Gibson said...

As a young botanist and plant appreciator I enjoyed this article and frequently think about what got me so obsessed and passionate about the vascular plants. My parents are outdoors appreciating folks and I did a lot of camping, hiking and backpacking when I was younger as well as living out in the 'country' for the beginning of my childhood. I don't really think there is much of an answer, it's just ingrained in me to feel the way I do. There's no rhyme or reason to my passion and obsession other than knowing what I enjoy and making the most out of it. It's funny you post this as I just finished seeing the Big Year and it really encouraged me to evaluate my life and it's goals and aspirations. I just published a post at my nature blog The Natural Treasures of Ohio if you would be interested in gaining a bit of familiarity with my mind on the matter!

The Phytophactor said...

Give us the link!

Andrew Lane Gibson said... there you go, sir!

The Phytophactor said...

A link, not just an address! Here you go: Flora of Ohio