22 May 2012

Fascination of Plants Day

The first International Fascination of Plants Day was celebrated at JIC with over 550 children from 23 Norfolk schools. The Blue Peter gardener and plant fanatic Chris Collins was on hand to share his own fascination of plants, and there was a huge range of activities that brought home the amazing versatility of plants, and how much our lives depend upon them.

"The thing about working with plants and kids is that you cant pontificate to them they need to get involved," said Chris Collins. "If you’re talking to them about genetics or pests or entomology they’ve got to see it and they’ve got to feel it. There's got to be interaction, the same with gardening. It’s only when you’re doing it that you really get it."

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There was the chance to listen to the inner workings of a tree. Headphones were connected to an oak tree and the children heard the sounds from within, which they described as being "like a motorbike" or like "a fast-beating heart" as well as the popping sounds caused by hundreds of litres of water being drawn up. OPAL, (Open Air Laboratories) and the National Trust led session of 'hedge-bashing' that showed the amazingly diverse wildlife that inhabit our hedge plants. Natural England brought the coast to Norwich demonstrating how plants thrive in the saltmarsh habitat.

The children got the chance to extract DNA from blueberries with The Genome Analysis Centre and Science Art and Writing (The SAW Trust) explored the way plants produce useful products through art.

The pupils were challenged to spot the difference between natural variants of Arabidopsis, identify 14 different crop plants, work out which part of a plant we eat, and guess how many seeds were in a jar that would cover the Norwich City FC football pitch in crops. They also looked at plant diseases through a microscope and met some plant pests with the JIC Insectary. The Global Food Security exhibition emphasised the critical role plants play in feeding the world.

The Teacher Scientist Network crowned Clare School the winners in its Tallest Wheat Competition, as they had grown wheat plants to a height of 660mm. This beat off all other entrants from Norfolk schools, who were all given wheat seeds during National Science and Engineering Week in March.
"An overwhelming number of students said that they didn’t think plants were interesting beforehand but do now," said JIC Outreach Co-ordinator Dee Rawsthorne.

Feedback from the teachers who attended was also positive:
Inspiring and insightful!

The pupils and staff all found the day fascinating - it complemented our curriculum perfectly and put what can be a rather dry topic into a much more interesting context.

Many, many thanks for inviting us to the "Fascinating Plants' workshop today. Each and every one enjoyed it thoroughly and without fail, their main comment was that there "wasn't enough time!"



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