Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Plant Identification the Artistict Way

I am not a scientist and have limited scientific experience with horticulture and botany. I do know a lot about plants, though, and what makes them happy. I also know a lot about the power of art as a means of honing observational skills, and the role observation plays in learning.

The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines science specifically as “a branch of knowledge conducted on objective principles involving the systemized observation of and experiments with phenomena, especially concerned with the material and functions of the physical universe."

A lot of the student volunteers have questions about which plants are which. It's confusing at first because all the plants look like a sea of green. We spend very little time in educational settings or otherwise just sitting and staring at plants. Observation is an educational skill often elbowed out in curricula trying to meet standardized benchmarks. I think it's one of the more critical learning methods. As children we learn to walk by watching the bigger people around us before stumbling about on our own unsteady feet. I learned to make Greek yogurt by watching my YiaYia strain the whey with an old pillowcase. We can similarly learn the differences between plants by observing the details that distinguish them from others.

Garnet, Pat and Harry at work observing in the garden.

Garnet is excited about Zebra tomatoes!
For our workshop on plant identification each volunteer drew a plant with which they were unfamiliar. Braeden had the excellent idea of drawing two plants he had a difficult time telling apart. The results were impressive and we plan on making some greeting cards with the fabulous results.

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