Venier Science Education - December 2023


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Life Science

Coniferous and Deciduous Plants

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Toneka Bussey Toneka Bussey 1928 Points

I'm looking for interesting ways teach deciduous and coniferous plants.  The students get the two mixed up sometimes and the units do not allow a lot of time to teach about this.

Pamela Dupre Pamela Dupre 92364 Points

I'm not sure which grade you teach but, in elementary, the way I teach this is by starting at the beginning of the year and doing a nature walk. We do a tree count. I don't tell them the names or types of trees. They can collect the leaves that are on the ground. We use them for leaf rubbings and the leaves can be kept in their science journals. When we get back in class we do a sorting/classifying activity. Lots of discussion there! Then, I introduce them to Audubon Field Guides. I show them how to look for the shape of the leaf. Then we discuss how they might have different descriptions of the same tree's bark or did it have needles or leaves. I introduce coniferous trees and deciduous trees. For a few weeks after the lesson, students ask to bring the field guides out at recess and they do! When the weather begins to change and the leaves began to fall, I ask them why the trees lose their leaves? Are the trees dead? Why is this happening? Again, we go back to coniferous or deciduous. Depending on the grade level, you can do a demonstration of chlorophyll chromatography to reinforce the difference between the two. (I have done this with students as young as 2nd grade.)

And then there is this lesson you might find more fitting.



Toneka Bussey Toneka Bussey 1928 Points

Thank you!  I teach 5th grade.  This was very helpful and I'll make sure I incorporate these stratgegies.

Mary Bigelow Mary Bigelow 10275 Points

Most of my middle school students referred to any conifer as a 'pine.' So I asked them to gather samples of evergreens (a nice activity to do before the winter holiday!) and we a good collection of pines as well as spruces, firs, hemlocks, cedars, yews, junipers, and larches (We're in the Northeast US). Rather than give them the field guides, I had a graphic organizer for them to use as they compared and contrasted the samples, specifying the length of the needles, whether the needles were single or in clusters (and how many), the appearance of leaf-like structures if no needles), the color of the needles (dark, light green, other markings), color of the bark if included, a sketch, etc. At that point they used field guides to identify. To take it a step further, the students then had to look back at their notes and find patterns that would help them identify these trees. For example, most pines have needles in packets (both start with P), spruces have single sharp needles (S in both words), etc. We tested their ideas with additional samples. And... the lab smelled wonderful!

I got this idea from a birding workshop at Cornell, in which the instructor (who was from Europe) noticed that American birders would immediately grab a field guide instead of observing and noting the characteristics of the birds. On the hikes, we had to verbalize the markings we saw, the sounds, size, behaviors, etc. It make for a more intense experience in observation and analysis instead of having our noses in a field guide!

Mary B 


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