was team teaching; now FACTS?

David Hershey dh321 at excite.com
Fri Jul 16 13:53:01 EST 1999

There is nothing wrong with basic knowledge but it should be balanced
with applied knowledge and all too often it is not. In 1903, Liberty
Hyde Bailey wrote,

"A great difficulty in the teaching of botany is to determine what are
the most profitable topics for consideration. The trouble with much of
the teaching is that it attempts to go too far, and the subjects have no
vital connection to the pupil's life. ... Every person is interested in
the evident things, few in the abstruse and recondite. Education should
train people to live, rather to be scientists."

I have seen a dozen or more papers in education journals urging more
emphasis on applied aspects in the teaching of botany, but have never
come across articles urging more emphasis on the basic aspects. 

Humor is certainly an effective learning technique as is the bizarre
because it sticks in the memory. The fact that dicots are often grafted
while monocots are rarely grafted because of their differing stem
anatomies offers both. Grafting has all sorts of basic and applied
aspects. Just to mention a few: In nature, root grafts are very common
among trees and lead to disease transmission and sharing of resources.
Grafting is an important research technique. Grafting is used for most
of our tree fruits and many ornamental plants yet has produced all sorts
of humorous and bizarre forms such as trees bearing five types of
apples, many weeping forms of trees, tree forms of roses and other
flowering shrubs and nonwoody perennials, or trees in various geometric
shapes and even those shaped like ladders.   

I think a fruit lab is an excellent idea as students can eat and learn
at the same time. I wouldn't limit it to just classifying fruits by
botanical type. It is also a good opportunity to learn to recognize
differences among apple cultivars or varieties and to realize they are
clones, some of which are hundreds of years old. Seedless fruits offer
all sorts of interesting stories as well, an empty sunflower "seed" is a
seedless fruit.    

I believe someone once advocated a learning technique where students
answered questions posed by their fictional Aunt Sally in nontechnical
terms. That perhaps is a way to gage what nonmajors take from an intro.
botany class. Can they answer Aunt Sally's questions such as "Why do
leaves change color in the fall?" or "How does water get to the top of
tall trees?" or "What is grafting and how is it used?"

David Hershey 
dh321 at excite.com

David W. Kramer wrote:
> David Hershey wrote:
>  I always thought
> >the whole monocot versus dicot comparison was given too much emphasis.
> >It's easy to ask students exam questions on monocot versus dicot but of
> >what value is that information in the real world? I've never heard even
> >the most dedicated gardener say "My your monocots look lovely today."
> >The few practical aspects of knowing the difference between monocots and
> >dicots, such as grafting, aren't usually emphasized.
> >
> >David Hershey
> >dh321 at excite.com
> I confess to introducing these FACTS not because they have any practical
> application or to provide easy test questions but because it is one way of
> illustrating how evolution works.  By emphasizing that both are flowering
> plants and then pointing out the differences between them that have
> accumulated over millions of years of evolution, students [hopefully ;-) ]
> can get a sense of how reproductive isolation can result in new forms that
> can then accumulate mutations that make them more different and less
> similar while still retaining some important features (angiospermy) from
> their common past.  It also illustrates that there is often more than one
> solution to a problem, e.g., are parallel veins better than reticulate
> veins?  are three petals better than 4 or 5? etc.
> What has happened to the concept of knowing just to know?  Must everything
> we learn have an application?  No one has yet attacked the traditional
> "fruit lab" where students examine various fruits and classify them as
> simple/multiple/aggregate then classify the simple fruits as fleshy/dry,
> etc.!!  When we eat a peach, is it important to know that it is a drupe?
> that an apple is a pome?  I think not, BUT the really important lesson in
> this is that not everything is what it may seem.  Certainly applies to
> politics!  and advertising!  To know that a sunflower "seed" is really a
> fruit and a cherry "seed" is really a stone may help me realize that if I
> were to put on those tiny swim trunks I see in the GQ ads, I would not have
> the same sex appeal as the model!!!  OK, maybe not a good analogy but there
> needs to be some levity in this discussion.
> *********************
> David W. Kramer, Ph.D.
> Asst. Prof. of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology
> Ohio State University at Mansfield
> 1680 University Drive
> Mansfield, OH  44906-1547
> Phone:  (419) 755-4344      FAX:  (419) 755-4367
> e-mail:  kramer.8 at osu.edu

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