Building Botanical Literacy

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Building Botanical Literacy
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  www.sciencemag.org SCIENCE  VOL 331 25 MARCH 2011  1535 ESSAY   B etsy Justus, a doc-toral student at Ohio University, has a fan club. It is a team of students from Cheyenne Central High School investigating spore germination in their class-room and posting research information to their team Web page. Betsy has been mentoring her team through online guidance and encour-agement, posing questions throughout the inquiry pro-cess, and providing insights on what scientists know and how they think. Similarly, Eric Jones, a Florida State University doctoral candi-date, hooked his St. Sebas-tian middle school team into an intriguing conversation about their inves-tigations on pollinator visits to flowers. His reward was in experiencing his students’ motivation to learn, expressed in statements such as, ‘We are sad that our experiments are over,” and ‘We have developed a whole new interest in flowers!”Betsy and Eric are among the more than 500 scientists from 14 professional plant-related organizations volunteering as online mentors and personalizing an inquiry expe-rience for student teams. Plant biology research projects and student dialogue with online mentors about the student-generated research are part of the PlantingScience (www.plantingscience.org) online learning community (see the first figure). PlantingScience makes science experts accessible to secondary school classrooms with the goal of improving understanding of science while fostering an awareness of plants. Plants are essential to our everyday lives, and society faces major food, fuel, and environ-mental challenges, some of whose solutions will emerge from breakthroughs in plant biol-ogy ( 1 ). Meeting these challenges requires  preparing future scientists and science-literate citizens. To rebuild botanical knowledge that has been declining across academic, private, and government sectors, strengthening educa-tion about plants across grade levels is recom-mended ( 2 ). This decline is part of the con-tinuing U.S. crisis in science literacy, although some underlying causes, such as little expo-sure to plants in school and preferences for animals, are unique to botany ( 3 ). Textbook coverage is biased toward animals, and teach-ers use animal examples with which they are more familiar. There is also a general human tendency toward “plant blindness”—over-looking their presence in the environment ( 4 ). Plants, in their favor, have distinct advantages for generating excitement about science dis-covery. Inexpensive, easy to keep, and non-controversial subjects for experimentation,  plants are adaptable classroom organisms.At the 2003 Botany Education Forum, Bruce Alberts, then president of the National Academy of Sciences, challenged the Botani-cal Society of America (BSA) to enhance science classroom experiences. Stakeholder meetings of plant scientists, middle school and high school teachers, and teacher lead-ers with the National Research Council iden-tified curriculum standards teachers could introduce with plant investigations. Scien-tific Inquiry through Plants, a pilot program enabling teachers to extend inquiry learning  beyond the classroom through interactive and integrated technology tools, was launched in 2005 ( 5 ). Building Botanical Literacy SPORE* SERIES WINNER Claire Hemingway, 1  William Dahl, 1  Chris Haufler, 2  Carol Stuessy 3   Online mentors inspire interest in science while engaging students in thinking about plant biology. Multimedia sharing among students, scientists, and teachers. A student-generated photomicrograph of a C-Fern gametophyte docu-ments the team findings.    C   R   E   D   I   T   S  :   (   T   O   P   )   A   N   D   R   E   W    B   A   R   N   E   S  ;   (   B   O   T   T   O   M   )   C   L   A   I   R   E   H   E   M   I   N   G   W   A   Y *SPORE,  Science  Prize for Online Resources in Education; www.sciencemag.org/site/special/spore/. Author for corre-spondence. E-mail: chemingway@botany.org 1 Botanical Society of America, St. Louis, MO 63166, USA. 2 Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Univer-sity of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045, USA. 3 Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture, Texas A&M University, Col-lege Station, TX 77843, USA. Workshops for teachers. Teachers in the 2010 Summer Institute discuss celery morphology before begin-ning team investigations. Published by AAAS    o  n   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   2 ,   2   0   1   6   h   t   t  p  :   /   /  s  c   i  e  n  c  e .  s  c   i  e  n  c  e  m  a  g .  o  r  g   /   D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   f  r  o  m   25 MARCH 2011 VOL 331 SCIENCE  www.sciencemag.org 1536 ESSAY  The American Society of Plant Biolo-gists signed on in 2006. Today, a big part of what makes PlantingScience special is our many partners ( 6  ). Over recent years, 108 Master Plant Science Team mentors, primar-ily graduate students, have made year-long mentoring commitments. Online mentor-ing allows scientists, from graduate students to professor emeriti, to contribute to school science without leaving their offices and to remain in constant contact with their teams.Partnerships permeate PlantingScience. Societies unite volunteer efforts in a national network to address education needs:Online mentors and classroom teachers collabora-tively support student teams; these teams develop curricula and Web site materials and provide professional development, and the Texas A&M University and Biologi-cal Sciences Curriculum Study colleagues investigate how online mentorship affects learning. Over 9000 students, 2500 research teams, and teachers in 34 states have thus far experienced inquiry science as a community endeavor with plant biologists. About 60% of the classes are in high schools, and 38% are in middle schools. College classes and 4-H clubs also participate. Educators seek to engage their students in collaboration, com-munication, and innovation—21st-century skills for success—and inquiry experiences that mirror the practices of scientists.Participating in the science enterprise and communication are vital to science learn-ing proficiency ( 7  ). Resources for reflection and argumentation are critical for students to construct their understanding. Teacher materials include guiding questions and options for profitable lines of investigation. Mentor materials—for example, the Power of Sunlight tip sheet—include common mis-conceptions about photosynthesis, and sug-gestions for helping students tweak experi-mental set-ups and make sense of their data. The key tool for reflection and discourse is the student team Web page where students and mentors post messages asynchronously.Talking online with a scientist is excit-ing and motivating to students. Teachers commonly relate that their students develop a new level of confidence and responsibil-ity toward their experiments. Preliminary results of before and after tests showed sig-nificant improvement in student attitudes toward enjoying studying plants and plant  biology. Many students report that tend-ing to and observing their plants is exciting and rewarding.Teachers often encourage students to use the searchable research gallery to evalu-ate questions investigated by other teams; they report that seeing other students tackle similar topics opens them to the scien-tists’ world of peer scrutiny. A search of Wonder of Seeds projects in the archive reveals that students from middle school through college have asked a wide range of questions about germination and growth— such as what is the effect of pH of soil, does the presence of earthworms influence growth, and how do seeds respond to grav-ity while germinating.Flexibility within a framework allows teachers to tailor investigations for their students. We aim to shift curricula from repetitive lab exercises with predicable out-comes into the real world of science where ambiguity, messy data, and creativity reside ( 8 ). Modules range from widely accessible, open inquiries to more structured inquiries. Some incorporate the established classroom models of Wisconsin Fast Plants, C-Fern, and  Arabidopsis . In drafting modules, scientist-teacher teams work with the curriculum coordinator. Classroom field-testing follows, with some mentors also assessing protocols.Scientists from the module development teams then lead a 5-day inquiry immersion that opens the 9-day institute for teachers who wish to deepen their understanding of  plant biology, inquiry learning, and online community platform use (see the second figure). Sixteen teachers are selected to experience the plant inquiries as learners. Plant scientists provide content background and teachers can become familiar with the interactive tools. The second week provides focused time for teachers to share strategies for using online and classroom discourse and science notebooks as they design an implementation plan for their own students.The “digital generation” is often con-nected 24 hours, 7 days a week, and digi-tal learning is now on the national educa-tion agenda ( 9 ). PlantingScience students voluntarily post findings and communicate with mentors on weekends and evenings. The Web site received 1,628,164 visitors  between August 2005 and November 2010. Interest in the model has spread internation-ally, with a Dutch translation of the Web site managed independently, and Dutch–U.S. collaboration under way.Science and society will benefit from  piquing children’s interest in plants at an early age and nurturing their thinking about how science works. The personal connection with an online mentor also holds promise for inspiring individual students. There is power in the collective commitment and expertise of scientist-school partnerships to efficiently raise engaging collaborative science learn-ing to a national scale. References and Notes  1. National Research Council,  A New Biology for the 21st Century   (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2009). 2. K. Havens, A. T. Kramer, B. Zorn-Arnold,  Assessing Botan-ical Capacity to Address Grand Challenges in the United  States  (Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Surrey, UK, 2010); www.bgci.org/usa/bcap. 3. G. Uno,  Am. J. Bot.   96 , 1753 (2009). 4. J. Wandersee, E. Schlusser,  Am. Biol. Teach.   61 , 84 (1999). 5. C. Haufler, M. Sundberg,  Am. J. Bot.   96 , 1751 (2009). 6. American Bryological and Lichenological Society, American Fern Society, American Institute for Biological Sciences, American Phytopathological Society, American Society of Agronomy, American Society of Plant Taxono-mists, Canadian Society of Botany Crop Science Society of America, Ecological Society of America, Society for Economic Botany, Society for the Study of Evolution, Soil Science Society of America, Wisconsin Fast Plants, and 4-H Youth Science, Engineering and Technology Pro-grams (4-H SET). 7. S. Michaels, A. W. Shouse, H. A. Schweingruber, Ready,  Set, Science! Putting Research to Work in K–8 Science Classrooms  (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2008). 8. S. R. Singer, M. L. Hilton, H. A. Schweingruber,  America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science Classrooms  (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2006). 9. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technol-ogy, Prepare and Inspire: K–12 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education  (Execu-tive Office of the President, Washington, DC, 2010); www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/ pcast-stem-ed-final.pdf. 10. PlantingScience is possible because of the exceptional efforts of teachers and volunteer mentors, contributions of advisers and collaborators, and partner societies (full list on is on the Web site). The BSA, the Monsanto Fund, and the NSF (DRL-0733280) have funded this ongoing effort. About the authors From left to right: Rob Brandt , Claire Hemingway , and William Dahl . Not pic-tured are Chris Haufler and Carol Stuessy. C. Hemingway, W. Dahl, and C. Stuessy are co-principal investigators on the project. C. Haufler is BSA at-large director for edu-cation. R. Brandt is BSA and project infor-mation technology manager. 10.1126/science.1196979    C   R   E   D   I   T  :   W   I   L   L   I   A   M   D   A   H   L Published by AAAS    o  n   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   2 ,   2   0   1   6   h   t   t  p  :   /   /  s  c   i  e  n  c  e .  s  c   i  e  n  c  e  m  a  g .  o  r  g   /   D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   f  r  o  m    (6024), 1535-1536. [doi: 10.1126/science.1196979] 331 Science (March 24, 2011) Claire Hemingway, William Dahl, Chris Haufler and Carol Stuessy Building Botanical Literacy  Editor's Summary This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. Article Tools http://science.sciencemag.org/content/331/6024/1535article tools: Visit the online version of this article to access the personalization and Permissions http://www.sciencemag.org/about/permissions.dtlObtain information about reproducing this article: is a registered trademark of AAAS. Science Advancement of Science; all rights reserved. The title Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20005. Copyright 2016 by the American Association for thein December, by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1200 New York (print ISSN 0036-8075; online ISSN 1095-9203) is published weekly, except the last week  Science   o  n   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   2 ,   2   0   1   6   h   t   t  p  :   /   /  s  c   i  e  n  c  e .  s  c   i  e  n  c  e  m  a  g .  o  r  g   /   D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   f  r  o  m 
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