Coming back to the greenhouse at Green Chimneys after a (somewhat) relaxing break is like a new chapter. The holidays and our gift-giving crafts are behind us, the cold weather is upon us and seed-starting is beginning to peak its monstrous head above the not-so-distant horizon, a fact substantiated by the new catalogs that are arriving in my mailbox daily.
To kick off 2014 and the beginning of our plant science unit, some of my older classes are being given good size house plants (propagated within the last school year by students) to learn about and practice the art of pruning. The kids have been super excited to receive such large plants to call their own, though some are quite leggy and others oddly proportioned. But, the idea of being able to cut and potentially shape a plant into whatever form they want is an enticing offer.
Likening a good pruning job to a good hair cut gave my students the understanding that they would need a little background knowledge on how plants grow and shoots develop prior to picking up a pair of scissors and attempting the task themselves. We shared a few stories about bad haircuts, which so many of us have experienced at one point or another. This exchange drove the point home about how important it is to understand how a plant grows before you attempt to train it into a desired shape.
We began by looking at diagrams of enlarged stem and leaf structures and read informational text on the subject. The students then used magnifying glasses to try and identify the plant parts they had just learned about on their actual model, in this case a scented geranium. Knowing that a cool hands-on experience was coming down the pike added the motivational push we needed to get through some heady botanical info. Their interest was so peeked that in one high school class there was so much discussion we ran out of time before we even had a chance to pick up a pair of scissors! They’ll just have to wait until next week to start the shaping process.
Part two of our project is propagating the stem cuttings and when possible, the leaves that we remove from our plants. While I promised my students that they could keep the plant they will prune and tend over the next few months, we agreed the smaller propagules they will grow and care for will be a part of our our next plant sale. I’m looking forward to giving students a chance to make their case for the cause they want plant sale proceeds to support.
New year, new plants, new projects, the possibilities are endless… bring it on 2014!