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Great Sites for Teaching About ... Plants

Great Sites Center

Each week, the Education World Great Sites for Teaching About ... page highlights Web sites to help educators work timely themes into their lessons. If your class is among the millions of students celebrating the arrival of spring, this week's sites are among the best on the Web for integrating plants into your curriculum.

  1. Aliens Explore Earth: Plants, Trees, and Forests
    Here is a site designed for middle school students that covers all kinds of plant life in very factual terms. Each article is succinct and serious in nature, offering accurate descriptions of different forests and the plants and trees that inhabit them. Of particular interest may be the entries on factors affecting plant growth and seed dispersal. Your class will also want to explore other topics on the Alien Explorer site concerning the life sciences!

  2. Curtis Botanical Magazine
    This online database uses images from the periodical that was originally published from the late 1700s through the early 1800s. The site contains thousands of records, plates, and related title pages from the first 26 volumes of William Curtis's work. The database is fully searchable, or users can access an alphabetical list of plants. Your students can appreciate pictures and facts from the alpine bell flower through the zebra-flowered arum.

  3. eNature

    This virtual field guide to plants and animals has an extensive listing of all kinds of plants. This particular link takes you to wild flowers, which are categorized by very visual descriptions so that even younger children can make use of the site: Simple-shaped Flowers, Odd-shaped Flowers, Daily and Dandelion-like Flowers, Rounded Clusters, and Seeds and Fruits, to name a few. You can also view the entire category. The clickable photographs are clear and colorful, and the resulting pages are full of information. Your students can even send an e-card of the flower they've studied!

  4. Global Forest Awesome
    GF Awesome is a fun, engaging look at tree biology for elementary and middle school students. The site menu is a graphic of the tree of knowledge that allows students to visually identify topics of interest. The School section offers self-contained lessons and quizzes; the Fun Science link offers facts and "gruesomes" that change daily (yes, they really are gruesome!). The links Weather, Library, Gallery, and Teacher round out this site.

  5. Life Science Safari: Plants
    Did you know that a eukaryotic cell is any cell that contains a nucleus and related membranes? This great page for elementary kids on plant cell structure doesn't hold back on the substance: cell membranes, walls, chloroplasts, cytoplasm, golgi bodies, ribosomes, and more. Each term is a link to a concise definition with examples and animations to help create understanding. There are lots of links to other kinds of living things too.

  6. Nature Explorer
    This is a frames-based site that offers a wealth of information on all kinds of living things. In the lower left-hand frame, scroll down to Plants and click. You'll immediately see an alphabetical listing in the frame for all things botanical. Click on any topic you choose and the large right frame fills with information and images for your students to consume. Each entry is short and to the point, so you aren't bombarded with heavily text-based presentations. Be sure to also check out the sections Rainforest Explorers and the Natural History of Yellowstone!

  7. NatureServe Explorer
    NatureServe Explorer is an online database on all living things hosted by the Association for Biodiversity Information. Click on Plants and Animals, and a search screen pops up that allows your students to tailor specific searches for the plant of their choice. Students can search by common or scientific name or by location, status, or ecological community. They can have the search engine ignore punctuation in the database and include subspecies, varieties, and populations in the results. This is a great site for middle and high school research!

  8. Noble Foundation Plant Image Gallery
    If you are looking for a site for your visual learners that doesn't sacrifice substance for style, this may be just the site. The Noble Foundation offers its image gallery by Grasses & Grasslike Plants, Forbs (flowers), and Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines, with each section containing dozens of listings by common name, scientific name, and family. You can also use the site-based search tool to find an exact listing of a plant of interest to your students. Each entry offers a description of the plant, the species, family, longevity, season, origin, height, and fruits it may produce. Multiple pictures of each plant can be enlarged for closer inspection.

  9. Partners for Growing
    The Evergreen Project presents this set of activities on exploring plant life for elementary students. Enjoy the personalized interactive stories and songs to help students acclimate to the topic. Then immerse your class in these great features: School Garden, Training Bees, Leaf Collection, and Plant Munchers (aphids, caterpillar, weevils, and other insects). The section Investigations includes three fun experiments. Activity-based and full of colorful images, this site will be a great addition to your plant study this spring!

  10. Plants Alike and Different
    Subtitled "The Diversity of Life," this site doesn't look promising on the surface but has great activities and support materials within. Consider the Herbarium Card, which comes with complete directions on how to design, scan, and build your very own leaf collection, or 15 Color Chip Cards, which gives students a range of colors with which to classify the plants they examine. Three biomes are covered in detail: Desert, Grasslands, and Taiga (the temperate deciduous forest link is dead). Click on the links and introduce your students to the flora that exist within. Overall there's a lot here for elementary and middle school classes!

Article by Walter McKenzie
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