The effects of participating in plant-people activities on general biology college students
Williams, Lisa Davis
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Student interest in plants and botany generally declines around the fifth grade and continues to decrease throughout the middle and high school years. New lectures and lab exercises for a mixed-majors general biology course that focused on plant-people relationships were developed. These activities were hypothesized to improve student attitude and awareness of plants and to increase their motivation to learn more about them. Students were surveyed regarding their interest in plants and regarding their knowledge of local woody plant species both pretreatment and post-treatment. During the non-treatment unit, students were instructed using the traditional lecture method and participated in lab exercises on plant structure. At the end of the unit, a standard exam was used to assess their knowledge. Topics examined during the treatment unit were medicinal plants and teas and relationships amongst plants, soil, water and people. For an introduction to ecology, plant examples were used to illustrate ecological principles wherever possible. The lecture method combined with two short assessments and two out-of-class assignments focusing on these topics. In lab, students completed a drawing exercise, created a woody plant portfolio, and participated in exercises on medicinal properties of plants, and tea brewing and tasting. There was no change in student interest in plant-related topics over the course of this project. Student ability to identify common woody plants and vines significantly improved after developing a plant portfolio. Grades for post-treatment assessment were higher than non-treatment assessment. Instructor motivation to teach botanical topics was low-to-medium at the beginning but was high at the end of this project. A new botany course intended for non-science majors has been proposed using many of the materials and tools from this project.