It’s all well and good to talk about plants and their contributions to the health of the atmosphere (specifically its oxygen and carbon dioxide levels); their gifts of food and habitat that result in burgeoning biodiversity; or their role (with the aid of certain bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi) in the formation and retention of fertile soil on earth’s rocky crust… but this is far too abstract for most youngsters!
Eventually they should understand all this – and please make sure that they do hear these overarching truths. (I start talking about these things with 3 and 4 year-olds.) However, at the same time, as they’re building general comprehension, help them along by introducing them to specific plants in their immediate neighborhood. Supply them with plenty of opportunities to spend enjoyable time with real-life plants: to learn their names and interesting qualities; to do hands-on craft and art projects with them, and to learn mythic stories about the green creatures – as well as concrete information about human’s interactions with these essential beings.
A visual and verbal worksheet such as the following can help in this process, especially when combined with a field trip to the school yard, a park, an adjacent street, or nature center to observe as many of these fellows as possible. These two pages address the gifts of eight specific plants – large and small. They document the particular, renewing, mutualistic partnerships that Native American wove between themselves and these plants, relationships that have endured for over 10.000 years.
If the youngsters are intrigued with this topic and like this format, they could go on to create their own version of this activity featuring original student drawings and clues about favorite nearby or far-away plants. They could share their team’s product with a designated audience. In other words, they could extend this into a fine Project-Based-Learning experience.
Here are the black and white PDF’s of these two pages.