Plants are very useful in our
society. The old saying, "Either you grow it, or mine it,"
still holds true. Children are not aware of where items they use
everyday come from. Plants may be used for decoration, erosion and
climate control (wind breaks and shade), foods, beverages, flavoring,
medicines, fabrics, rope and other fibers, wood, rubber, dyes, paper,
and many other uses.
Many clothes are still made from
cotton, which is grown on plants and harvested. Fabric that is made of
polyester is synthetic and has a petroleum base. Medicines like aspirin
come from a tree. Scientists are discovering new medicines from plants
every year. The taste from many soft drinks, even cola, comes from
various plants. Plants most important contribution to humans, is the
food potential. Grains are used in many food products, especially flour.
Even the morning breakfast is from plants. Oatmeal from oat; corn flakes
from corn; and bran flakes from wheat. Most societies are based on one
grain as their staple. Many parts of Asia use rice; parts of North
America and Europe use flour; and Central America uses corn as its
- Instruct children to look around
the classroom for items made from plants. They might find paper, wood
desks, rulers, balloons, rubber bands, erasers, cotton shirts,
decorative plants, something made with natural dyes, pencils, twine,
baskets, bayberry candles, mint chewing gum (both gum and flavoring come
from plants) and many other things. Make a list on a piece of paper.
Continue writing new items when students go home and ask their parents
if they know anything else that comes from plants.
- Most students do not realize that
cotton is grown on a plant. If you have a cotton plant with a bud of
cotton, show the students that the little ball of cotton is then made
into fibers that can be used for spinning. Show students different kinds
of cotton fabric. Explain to students the difference between wool and
polyester. Wool is from sheep and polyester is from an oil based
product. You may want the students to bring one or two products from
home that are made from plants. Have a "show and tell,"
products from plants.
- Put a few microscopes out with
different types of fabric. Let the students look at the differences in
the threads that make up the various fabrics. Cotton fibers, for
instance, have a distinct texture composed of flat ribbons. Linen fibers
are jointed like bamboo.
- You may want to make another list
of plant foods that students ate. Instruct them to ask their parents
help and read labels of items they eat, to see if plants were involved
in making the product.