Thoughts on "A Chat about Flowers"
As I republish articles of interest from The Parents' Review, which can be found at the Internet Archive, I hope to post my thoughts about each article here on this blog. Please feel free to share your thoughts as well in the comments section below.
My second article, titled "Nature Study: A Chat about Flowers" by A. Logan Miller, follows the author along a lesson of sort on the topic of flowers, particularly on the differences between monocotyledons and dicotyledons. Not only a lesson on flowers, this article also models to a teacher how one might best teach about nature, in general. There is much we can learn from her instruction and later her conversation with us as we "in spirit" go along with her as she gathers specimens. To make this article easier to follow along with, I found images of a couple of the specimens to which she refers and collected them in a simple PDF file. You can download it here: A Chat about Flowers: Sample Specimens.
The article begins with the difference between monocotyledons and dicotyledons, two classes used to divide flowering plants, noting for us how we might learn to distinguish between the two types. The author then "takes us with her" as she collects sample plants, ones which are convenient to her audience based on their location and the seasonal time, that might illustrate more divisions of flowering plants.
There is some assumption of familiarity with terms and concepts related to botany. For example, while some parts of the seed are introduced, it is assumed that the parts of a flower such as, sepals, petals, calyx, corolla, pistil, stamen are already known. Also, the author's transition from differentiating between monocots and dicots to other types of divisions of flowering plants could have been expanded upon for the sake of clarity.
Much from her article can be gained with regard to how to teach as well as what to teach. For example, I really appreciated how plant parts were compared to something else, perhaps something more readily recognizable, which aides in creating a clearer mental image of that part. An umbel is described as a plant that has flowers which grow on its stalk from one point "like the ribs of an umbrella (Miller). The Pulmonaria or lung-wort is described as a "gloriously blue flower by the way-side with here and there a red-tinged blossom, with curious hairy spotted leaves like the surface of the human lung" (Miller). Also, the walk collecting specimens shares the conversation used during this walk, a conversation which shows an appreciation for the beauty of nature, a sense of marvel of the natural world along with the specific details as they pertained to the specimen.
These aspects show me that I too should share my curiosity and excitement as we journey into the natural world. Some days we may collect specimens and some days we just add them to our sketchbook while on location. In some cases, when working with a shorter time allotment, it may be helpful to take a picture of a specimen to ensure details are not overlooked when sketching but not collecting.
This lesson would be better suited for the mid-elementary age and up because of the level of detail. I do plan to take what I've learned from this article and a few other articles and resources and incorporate the accumulated notes and ideas into the lessons I write and publish for this curriculum.