For the Classroom
Weeds and wildflowers are a wonderful addition to your classroom. Do you have any plants in your classroom already? Where are their native habitats? What would happen if any of your plants ended up in a community garden or natural space? Would it survive? Could it become invasive?
What's in a Name?
Plants have some very interesting and funny names, like hound's tongue, Dalmatian toadflax, and medusa head. Find the funniest names you can or have your students look through books or online to find them. Why did each plant end up with that name? Many times it is based upon what the plant looks like. Does the plant have more than one common name? The silly names are usually common names and not the formal, scientific Latin name.
Can your class come up with a poem or song that includes some plants with silly names and short descriptions of what they look like? Choose local species and you'll give them an easy and memorable way to identify plants.
Weeds can be used as clues to soil conditions. The presence of weeds such as dandelions, brambles, nettles, and docks are an indication of highly fertile soil. Others, like daisies and plantains, are often seen in heavier, less fertile soils.
Ask your students if they know what seaweed is. Seaweed isn't really a weed at all. It's not even a formal term, but it generally means marine algae. Seaweed is an amazing plant found throughout the world's oceans, and it has many different uses. Different varieties are used in medicines, cosmetics, and fertilizers. One of their main uses is as food. People in Fiji eat crunchy seaweed. Some Canadians eat seaweed snacks instead of potato chips. Japanese cuisine uses seaweed in a huge variety of dishes, and seaweed agriculture is a major industry. Have you ever eaten seaweed?
You almost certainly have had some type of seaweed extract, and you probably eat it almost daily. Agars, carrageenans, and alginates are used in everything from chocolate milk and ice cream to cakes and salad dressing. Have the students go home and find as many products in their kitchen that list agar, carrageenan, or alginate. They should write down the names of the products so they can share them with the class. Were they surprised?