Biodiversity – Species ID specialists
26 years in and I STILL don’t have it down. Instead of the planned skipping-about-in-the-hills, realized last-minute that they so did not have the careful process of species identification down. Lots of ‘Oh, I can’t find it so it must be this”, pointing to a random plant on their green id packet. Realized that last year, most of them were probably just counting species pretty randomly too. How to get them to CARE about real data?
Collected the most common species from the hills before class. Distributed guides and id packets in class (They are not yet used to an outdoor class room, they concentrate on more rigorous material inside.) Had each table identify and JUSTIFY their identification with me, then they wrote a ‘museum card’ with the name and plant next to it. We practiced with a hard-to-identify plant. Made them look carefully at the leaf structure, the flower structure etc. In the end none of us could find it – called it ‘Raggedy Purple Plant’ so we’d have a place holder for it when we are in the field. Need a botanist!
Questions arising for group discussion and share-out: “What is a ‘weed’?” Ideas about ‘bad’, ‘takes over’, ‘introduced’, ‘not what humans want in the garden’ etc. Then re-framed as a survival strategy and compared to some ‘weed’ animal species like mice, rabbits and cockroaches. Contrasted with the K-selected strategy of a few offspring each with lots of parental energy investment like oak trees, lions and humans. Happy I took the time to add this bit of evolutionary biology to the mix. They already know so much, I need to ask more and better questions.
And “What might affect biodiversity?” Great answers like “Changing climate and conditions” (wow, very sophisticated), amount of water, sunlight and the temperature. THEN ask them to predict where in the wild areas of the school might have the highest biodiversity as a lead-in to tomorrow and Friday’s field work. Which was going to start YESTERDAY. Behind again. But it’ll go so much better because of the prep. Hopefully 🙂
Hey, extra credit is showing their parents the plants they’ve identified in a re-casting of the dull, dull nature walk!