Monday, September 03, 2007

A neat little 'mini study' -Camellias and Tea

My favourite camellia: Guilio Nuchio.

Spring seems to have arrived in my garden. The camellia are beginning to flower along with the magnolia, the kowhai and the Taiwan cherries. The later are attracting the tuis, busy feeding themselves on the available nectar. For those interested there are ideas for kowhai studies in earlier blogs.

Most schools have camellias nearby to visit or flowers can be brought from home to observe in class.

Using an interactive, or co-constructivist approach, teachers can set about learning about camellias with their students as co-inquires, or scientists; they might even like to introduce the word botanist - scientists who study plant life. A co-constructivist approach allows teachers the benefit of not having to know content beforehand and is, because of this, liberating.

A few ideas to start.

Take digital photos of flowers to display. Students can capture images from home using their own digital cameras or cell phones. Put a heading on the classroom wall: 'What do we know about Camellias?' With students develop a range of questions for students to research. Are camellias natives and if not why not? Where did they came from? How come there are so many different types of flowers ( leading into how gardeners 'breed' plants)? Later on students will realize there are main types of camellias ; there might be local expert who might be willing to share his or her knowledge.

For science a flower could be drawn carefully (or a digital photo taken).A leaf could be measured and the average length and width could be worked out for maths. Finally a description could made of the plant if in the school grounds. The idea of evergreen and deciduous might also be introduced.

Have a display of named camellias in saucers - for the school foyer? Vote for the 'best' one; graph results.

This simple plant study approach could be used with any plant.

Students could also write poetic thoughts about the camellia. One idea is to write one thought about the plant itself, one thought about the flower and, perhaps, one thought about how they feel about camellias. This would make simple three line poems, or haiku, which could also be displayed on the wall.

It would be fun for the teacher to introduce the idea that tea is made from the leaves of a kind of camellia. ( Tea:Camellia sinensis) If this were done it would lead the study into interesting fields. There is an interesting book about tea by Susette Goldsmith , 'Tea, Potted History of Tea in New Zealand', that would make a great student or teacher resource. Tea was first used in China 4000 years ago. The history of tea and its importance at first to the English; the history of the tea clippers ( sailing ships); learning about different types of teas could all be researched. Students could even make 'billy tea'.

Tea bags themselves could be studied to see how the tea infuses into water. No doubt researching the Internet would provide all sorts of interesting ideas. What are the favourite teas of their parents. How many tea bags would a family use in year?

From camellias to making tea.

Such a simple study can lead into a range of learning area.

And if students appreciate camellias a little more as a result that would be worthwhile in itself.

And, who knows, a few future botanists might well have been inspired.


Anonymous said...

An interesting study idea. Also as you point out kowhai are flowering at this time of year. There are eight distinct New Zealand endemic species and unfortunately many New Zealand children or adults know very little about them. Most schools have a kowhai tree somewhere in the school grounds or nearby. As a spring flowering tree they are dramatic and aestheticaly fascinating.They make an ideal study focus along with the role of the tui in pollination. The development of seed pods is particularly visual in kowhai and much can be learned through simple observation.

Bruce said...

I have to agree with you that schools do little to develop in their students a deep knowledge or appreciation of the environment. With the loss of the science advisers of the last century, wiped out in the 'Tomorrows Schools' regulations, there is no one to assist teachers focus on this vital aspect.

Strangely enough I visted a school last week and saw the results of a junior class study of camellias - unaware of my 'blog'. The paintings they had completed were very impressive. Not all is lost.