This special is one of fifteen Service Learning Standards Based Models 
For more
Service Learning activities Connecting Classrooms~Communities~Careers
visit or contact  Barbara Locurto  IMPACT II @ School-to-Career
Boston Public Schools


Sharing Native Plants

Arts, English Language Arts, Social Studies, Science

older & younger students
Communities schools & senior citizens
Careers botany, chemistry, health care, pharmacy


How can we preserve cultural knowledge?
High school biology and chemistry students become cultural and environ-mental stewards when they interview their elders about the use of native plants. Taking notes on familial traditions and agricultural practice, they transcribe their findings and employ conventional nomenclature to identify and describe plants and herbs. Internet research allows them to compare global usage of their plants. Applying the inquiry method in labs and hands-on experiments, they investigate growing plants and their medicinal and nutritional properties. When students invite an ethnobotanist to class, they hear an expert describe many of the specimens they are studying. Perceiving the need to preserve their findings for future generations, the young scientists publish a Handbook of Native Plants that they dedicate to their respected elders and distribute throughout the school and community. In a celebration of food and healing, students culminate this project by inviting family and friends to sample traditional recipes and share ethnobotany facts that convey both folk wisdom and the scientific method.

Resources Cultural Uses of Plants: A Guide to Learning about Ethnobotany, Gabriell DeBear Paye; Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants, Andrew Chevallier; Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (And Not So Wild) Places, Steve Brill 
Technology search Internet, exchange e-mail, tape record & photograph, scan graphics & word process handbook
Web Sites  Ethnobotany; Sacred Earth Ethnobotany Articles
Community Partners
Arnold Arboretum, senior center; ethnobotanist, local university 


Learning Standards Classroom Activities Service Activities
o Identify aspects of social & personal issues that can be addressed through scientific study (S)
o Make connections between natural resources, economic development & population centers (SS) 
o Discuss using plants for medicinal & nutritional purposes
o Decide to interview family members & elders about these traditions 
o Create field notes checklist for interviews 
o Visit senior center to share cultural & language similarities with students & elders
o Include seniors' botanical wisdom in native plant study
o Conduct historical & social studies research (SS)
o Use technologies to obtain, use & present information effectively (S) 
o Study audio recorder & camera techniques 
o Develop strategies to record reflections & plant information in journals
o Translate, transcribe & outline information 
o Conduct interviews with seniors
o Send pertinent information & illustrations in a thank you letter to family & other resources
o Develop portfolio of original illustrations of objects & organisms (S)
o Understand & use the writing process effectively (ELA) 
o Identify & illustrate plants discussed in interviews with seniors
o Search literature & Internet for native & traditional nomenclature & other information
o Publish Handbook of Native Plants 
o Display handbook in school library
o Read handbook to younger students 
o Present handbook & aloe plants to elder resources
o Design & conduct scientific investigations (S)
o Interview a medical researcher, biologist, or bioengineer (S)  
o Divide into groups that focus on specific plants
o Design scientific protocols 
o Interview ethnobotanist on historic studies
o Design experiments to test hypothesis
o Perform experiment, observe & record data
o Share reflections on scientific methodology & data results
o Continue scientific dialogue by e-mailing lab reports to ethnobotanist resource 
o Complete science exposition including whole class theme-based projects with individually differentiated tasks (S) 
o Prepare & present at exposition of nutritional & medicinal uses of native plants
o Encourage participants at exhibit to discuss plant uses from their respective cultures 
o Invite family, elders, youth & school community to exposition
o Share native recipes & medicinal cures