Fascination of Plants Day 2017 — Let’s talk about plant superpowers!

Fascination of Plants Day (FoPD) is celebrated around the world on May 18th.

To celebrate FoPD in New York, Dr. Marcela Karey Tello-Ruiz (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY) visited Bayville Primary School to present the class of Ms. Francine Alonge with fascinating plant facts that inspired these second graders to come up with their very own plant superheroes! 

Emphasizing simple facts like plants being able to produce their own food (and food for other living organisms like humans), and plants like ferns having outlived the dinosaurs, plants were truly brought into a new light for the children.

Furthermore, by analogy to superheroes having special superpowers, children learned about the special adaptations that plants have developed to survive extreme weather conditions and predators.  In order to overcome the dryness and heat of deserts, the freezing temperature of high mountains, the water excess of ponds, the high salinity of estuaries, the lack of soil or minerals in the soil, and other adverse conditions like strong winds, floods, fires, insects and predators, plants have needed to work out strategies and modifications to survive.  Numerous adaptations were described with graphical examples, stories, video clips, and specimens that were passed around.  Favorite specimens included a fragment of an aloe vera plant, which the children compared and contrasted with the bark and the needles of a pine tree.  Favorite images included a camouflaged “living stone” and an “old man” Mexican cactus.  A favorite story was about the queen of the night cactus flower that only blooms once a year for a single summer night, and a favorite video portrayed the catching and feeding behavior of carnivorous plants.

Our journey concluded with children drawing and describing a plant super-hero of their own imagination applying their newly learned plant facts… or superpowers, that is!  For some amazing plant superheroes, take a look at Gramene's Facebook page.

This activity was also brought to a small number of young children from the Grenville Baker Boys and Girls Club’s Science Club during a live broadcasted session via Periscope.  The didactic material employed was also described in another Periscope session aimed to educators.  Videos will be made available in Gramene’s YouTube channel and Botany Live.

Read more about this and other FoPD events in the American Society of Plant Biologists’ blog and Botany Live.

This outreach educational activity was made possible through National Science Foundation award #1127112 to the Gramene Project.

Plant superheroes save the day!

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Captain Spikes, and many other plant superheroes exemplified many of the plant superpowers -adaptations - that the children learned about including regeneration, leaf and bark thickness, camouflage, seed dispersal, etc.​

In their thank you notes, children drew and expressed what they learned, their favorite part of the activity, etc... There could not be a greater gift for a science advocate and educator.