Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Homeschool Botany: Let's Dissect a Seed!

Schooling just with Syd is keeping me hopping this week! Syd is thriving on the one-on-one attention, but I am struggling to get any of my own work done--I forgot to eat lunch until 4 pm yesterday, because I spent Syd's lunchtime working on my own stuff, and I totally did the thing where I bolted awake in the middle of the night fretting about emails that I didn't send.

Today, I MUST put our troop's extra concert ticket for sale on our local Girl Scout Facebook group, and fill out my kids' field trip forms and send them in, and set up a schedule for meetings to prepare for the workshop we're hosting next month, AND respond to the people who've registered for that workshop to tell them I've got them signed up!!!

Deep breath. More coffee...

ANYWAY, instead of doing any of that yesterday morning, much less any of the real stuff on my to-do list, Syd and I spent the entire morning studying seeds. This was a kid-instigated, parent-mentored study that stemmed from Syd's interest in "growing bean sprouts and doing experiments on them." We bought beans last week, planted them, and they did sprout, but when I asked Syd, "What next?" it turns out that she doesn't really want to do any experiments, so instead I devised this morning study that nevertheless let her add to her knowledge and get more hands-on experience.

On Sunday, we took a family trip to our local co-op and Syd selected a few types of beans from their bulk bins--I'm hoping that since they're organic, they'll sprout. That method worked well for our DIY rice paddy in a bucket, at least!

When we got home, I put six of each type of bean into a Mason jar to soak, and by the next morning, they were ready for science!

To begin the activity, we read A Seed is a Promise together. It's a little baby-ish, but it gives most of the relevant information, and it's a lovely, well-written book that's a pleasure to read. Next, we went over this Diagram of a Seed together--mental note that next time, I need to research how to pronounce scientific terms before I use them with the kids, because I mispronounced "cotyledon."

Education.com also has a quiz version of this diagram, which I don't think we'll be using.

And now, on to the dissection! We used an x-acto knife and a metal probe, paper towels to pad the work area, the diagram for reference, and our USB-attached microscope to get a closer look. I really like the USB microscope, because you can use it to take photographs of what you're looking at. Here, then, is the cotyledon of a pinto bean:

Here is its hilum:

And here is the inside, where you can see the endosperm and the entire embryo, consisting of the radicle, hypocotyl, and epicotyl:

In this dissection video that we later watched, the teacher put a drop of iodine on the dissected bean to make its parts stand out, but I didn't think it increased visibility at all. Our dissection worked fine without iodine.

A couple of years ago, I wanted the kids to learn how to create infographics, so I regularly assigned them. The kids got quite handy at them, and then last year we moved on to other ways to represent information and I'm afraid that I forgot all about asking them for infographics. That shows, because I gave Syd a few options for reporting on her work, and the infographic that she chose to create (rather than a blog post or a poster or an essay or a diagram of her own) shows that while she remembers how to physically build an infographic, she does not remember our discussions of what makes a GOOD infographic:

She didn't use any of the photographs that she took herself, even though she knew how to upload them, and... um, there are an awful lot of cat images for an infographic about seed dissection, sigh.

Since we didn't review the qualities of a good infographic before she started (and that's on me, alas), I only remarked on a few grammar and punctuation errors in her text, and didn't make her remove any cat pics, but rest assured that we WILL be spending more time reviewing the qualities of a good infographic and practicing that skill much more next semester!

So if you happen to read Syd's infographic and then for the rest of your life you wonder why you always start thinking of cats when you're trying to think about seeds... my apologies.

Want to do even more with seeds and plants? Here are some ideas:

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