Biodiversity Outside – Play the plant ID game!
Remember the dull, dull docent telling you every stupid plant name on an endless nature walk? Erg. So do not want to do that to the kids today. Came up with this game instead, when the biodiversity survey bombed last year! Right at the end of the project with the last class of the day…
1. Kids run about picking as many different plants as they can find in the grassy hill by the blacktop.
2. Bring their bunches back to each table’s chalked spot on the blacktop. Sort them into groups of similar (or identical) species.
3. Each kid identifes a different species, using a handout from Magpies and Mayflies. If not there, then use field guides. Write name and maybe sketch or describe to remember it.
4. Bring your plant bits to a central group. Sort them into similar/identical species. Count it all up.
5. Wrap up with the class circled around the grouped plants – was this an over or under-estimate? Why? (Bugs, can’t tell the grasses apart, didn’t count animals etc.) And was collecting a good thing for field biologists to do in other ecosystems? (Duh, no. but they used to do that, hence museums bulging with beetles, herbariums etc. In fact, Linneaus’s classifcation system was motivated by aristocrats wanting to be able to know what they had compared to other collectors. Think Magic Cards, only with stuffed armadillos and the spoils of sponsored collecting trips ex. voyage of the Beagle.)
Some more ‘duh’ stuff to make this go smoothly: Show/state what I want to see (not what I don’t) ex. a bunch of plants in your hand. Show the steps. Call out one step at a time when outside or they’ll get distracted and run around throwing foxtails at each other. Imagine that. Make sure the chalk circles on the blacktop don’t get parked on by a teacher’s car! And that’s all the advice I have right now. Some inspired by Doug Lemov’s “Teach Like a Champion – 49 techniques that put students on the path to college”. Really recommend this. Has a DVD of clips illustrating the techniques too.