For the past few weeks, my biology students have been learning about plants. I can’t think of a better way to learn about plants than to go out and observe them. So, I have taken my classes outside to our Outdoor Learning Environment (OLE) with the task of finding and photographing specific things about plants each day. It has been wonderful to be outside and to see students engaged in nature.
In addition to our outside time, students have taken notes and read some literature about plants in detail. I copied parts of the Botany Primer from Nature’s Notebook and had them hone in on an aspect of plants and then share it with the group using their photographs from the OLE to help with their explanations. Then, we went back outside.
By the end of this unit, students will have created a digital portfolio of plants from the OLE. I provide them with a list of categories of pictures and labeling (such as scientific names) that they need to include in their portfolio. Each day, we work through the list and then spend time at the end of class putting the day’s pictures into the portfolio. When labeling is appropriate for that day’s task, then I emphasize and demonstrate the labeling when we return to the classroom. Breaking down the project like this helps the students keep organized and improves the likelihood of overall success on the finalized portfolio.
A few words of caution: This activity requires students to take pictures. I have to directly tell them they may only take pictures of plants. There are to be no pictures of people, including people bending over to take pictures, taken at any point in this project. In this world of instant posting, I have to be clear with this message, and so far we are without incident 🙂 . My other caution is about the use of phones. Most of my students choose to use their phones to photograph and then to create the portfolio (most often in Google Slides). I am comfortable with this, but I am also constantly walking around to make sure the students are on task with their phones. I also have a few digital cameras available for those students that do not have a phone or personal camera.
I hope you can get outside with your students and enjoy the spring flowers!