Teachers Study Flowers and Pollinators

by Ana Maria Caballero McGuire, Children’s Education Fellow

June 6, 2017

Educators examine azalea flowers

Teachers Study Flowers and Pollinators

The Arboretum for Educators group took advantage of the spectacular blooms along Meadow Road for this month’s session. Teachers were tasked with carefully observing the flowers of a cluster of azaleas found next to the centenarian cork tree (phellodendron amurense var. Lavellei 7544-B) and sketching a perfect open flower in the center of their paper. Then, they were to find and sketch a bud and fruit in either corner of their paper. Finally, teachers filled in the spaces with drawings showing the progression of a flower from bud to fruit.

This activity became the experience upon which to build understanding of flower parts and pollination. By carefully noticing the subtle changes of many flowers within a shrub, teachers created a “movie” in their heads of the process by which flowers develop as they go through these different stages.

For very young or drawing averse students, photographing the different stages and then sequencing the photos challenges them to consider the progression of change and allows them to orally discuss their thinking.

Yet another way to help students understand this concept is to have them pick buttercups (or any small wildflower) in varying stages and tape them in order to a sheet.  Children will enjoy figuring out where exactly to place their unopened bud or fading flower within a sequence, and searching for yet an even larger fruit!

Back inside the Hunnewell Building lecture hall, teachers pulled apart flowers to examine stamens with pollen, pistils with ovules in their ovaries, and nectar guides in petals under dissecting microscopes.

Teachers learned about the mechanisms of pollination, and then went back out into the landscape looking for pollinators. Although the weather was cool and cloudy, we were able to capture a few European honeybees, a type of wasp, several flies, a beetle and a mystery bee with pollen baskets.

Much fun was had by all, and teachers left with additional resources to use in their classrooms and outdoor spaces.

The Arboretum for Educators program aims to deepen teachers’ understanding of plant science and show them how to use any outdoor landscape to teach children about the wonders of the natural world.

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