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Botany Unit Study
by Kym Wright

Review by Cathy Duffy

Students in upper elementary grades through high school can participate in this thoroughly developed unit study. Since it is quite extensive, you will need to plan on one or two semesters to complete it, depending upon the depth of study. This study can be the foundation of a year-long high school course, although it will be necessary to select resource books and projects that provide information at a more challenging level.

The Botany Unit Study is presented in seven sections. The first section covers 13 key topics with suggested readings, research activities, questions to answer, experiments, websites, microscope activities, and further research suggestions. These are quite detailed, providing a "road map" for tackling each topic. If we use every question and activity provided, the result will be a very comprehensive course. The structuring of questions and activities sets this up as primarily a "discovery" approach to learning.

You will need to use additional books for reference, research, and experiments. Janice Van Cleave's Plants and Botany: 49 Science Fair Projects are used for most of the experiments/activities, so you will need to borrow or buy these books to have on hand throughout the course. Additional reference books might be selected from a list in the appendix, although, if you have high schoolers, I think you will need some written at higher levels than some of those on the list.

The appendix is next with lengthy vocabulary, supply, source, and book lists. If students master the meaning of the vocabulary words, they will have accomplished much of what typically is covered in high school and college botany courses which tend to be vocabulary-intensive. Lesson plan pages make record keeping and planning simple, although a blank lesson plan page allows you to create your own plans. 23 lab sheets correspond with activities either described in the first section or in one of the two required reference books. Practice/review pages and the flashcards help students master essential concepts such as flower parts, leaf shapes, and root types. The lesson plan, lab sheet, and practice/review pages are reproducible, and we can purchase extra sets of the lab sheets and flash cards.

The entire study focuses heavily on learning-by-doing. It will require preparation and presentation time. There is little written work required, although students should complete at least one research report. Students compile a notebook as they work through the study, including their lab sheets, collected specimens, drawings, vocabulary definitions (if required), and other pertinent work. High schoolers should be required to do more written work. Answers to some of the questions raised in each section might be written out. For example, an older student should be able to write a description of the process of photosynthesis. Vocabulary word definitions might be explanatory rather than simple answers. Microscope work is optional, but, again, it would be highly recommended for high schoolers.

Since there are no botany texts written for elementary and high school students, until now those of us who wanted to study botany had to create our own courses from the ground up. This unit study solves that problem and does a great job of structuring a botany course that is both enjoyable and educational.

Review by Rainbow Resource Center

Botany Unit Study (5-12)

Kym Wright has provided the tools, the rest is up to us! I would have to say that this "unit study" qualifies as a full-blown, one-semester course in Botany or beginning Plant Biology, rather than what we�ve come to see as a unit study. This is serious learning, complete with microscopic exploration, research and plenty of reading, replete with labs and experimentation - all well thought out, well laid out, and organized so we can jump right in. This lady did her homework, and it shows! The course smacks of professionalism from the print quality to the lesson quality.

Like her Microscope Unit (which would be excellent to use before this course, though is not required), Kym has provided us with an excellent course framework that only requires us to gather books and materials. Lesson plans are complete, including references to basal books used in the study, pages of coursework to complete, labs to perform, vocabulary words to study, lab sheets to copy, even estimated range of days needed to complete the work. Flexibility is built in as you list other resources depending on what books you are able to find to supplement your study. Kym goes even further in providing us blank sheets to create our own lesson plans, if desired, but I can�t imagine improving on hers. Possibly you would need to do this if you were working with high school age children and wanted to plan a more rigorous study using more rigorous basal texts (?).

There are actually three basal resources to the course: the Unit Study book itself, which contains many of the materials, labs, questions, and activities to complete; Botany: 49 Science Fair Projects (out of print; check with your library) and Jan VanCleave�s Plants. These form the "core" of the course material. Questions and activities require the use of additional resources also. Kym has provided a good list of possible books to use under each topic heading, but assures us that any good books accessible to us are fine to use. This allows us to select books appropriate to the grade levels of the student(s) we are including in the study. And this is a study that would be easy to use with various grade-level children together. Younger children, of course, will need more help, especially with any lab and microscope work. An older child could use this unit independently. I personally think it could replace or be substituted for a large segment of life science or even the plant biology portion of a high school biology course. The labs are certainly more interesting and easier to implement than those found in these texts, and the emphasis on hands-on learning perfading this Unit Study is much more appealing and conducive to actual learning than the typical dry study provided by a standard text.

The lesson plans guide you through the course and utilization of course components. The very first lesson plans included time and directions for gathering course materials, including lab equipment and other resources. You will have to purchase some lab supplies to get he full benefit from the course. A list of suppliers is provided along with a comlete materials list for coursework and lab work (broke down by lab). Vocabulary words for the vocabulary work are also included in an appendix, as are the flashcards that students will use to master botany concepts such as leaf shape, leaf margin, parts of plants, etc. All lab sheets are provided, also - and these are truly works of art. They are crisp, clean, and beg to be filled out!

As I mentioned before, the focus is on hands-on learning, though the reading and research end of a good study is not slighted. One research paper is required during the course, though many other short answer, essay-type questions, and drawings provide ample documentation of learning. All work, including completed labs sheets and botanical specimens, is complied by the student and kept in a notebook. This provides an excellent "finished product" for the student as well as a sense of accomplishment as they complete the study.

Review by Tobin's Lab

Botany Semester or One-Year-Course

Cathy Duffy says we�ve been needing an upper level Botany course and I agree. Students use the discovery approach in this very comprehensive course. Here are lesson plans, lab sheets, and hands-on projects all arranged in an easy-to-use format. Unit covers life cycles, fruit & seeds, land & marine plants, fungi, algae & lichen, plants parts & functions, herbaceous & woody stems, gymnosperm & angiosperm, photosynthesis & reproduction, monocotyledons & dicotyledons, and more. Students compile a notebook, master a vocabulary list, learn by doing and record their findings on the lab sheets. Microscope projects included in case you have one. Bibliography even includes DD [Dewey Decimanl] numbers! Highly recommended for 6th & up.

Review by Sycamore Tree

Botany Unit Study

The first botany study we know of written for homeschoolers! It�s well organized and laid out. Includes lesson plans, Lab Sheets, hands-on projects and bibliography. So easy to use! Highly recommended. Ages 12 and up.

Review by Lifetime Books and Gifts

This is a wonderful, comprehensive botany study for twelve year olds and up. It incorporates the hands-on with the scientific. It includes learning to identify plants and know their anatomical makeup, microscopic knowledge along with the study of life cycles, physical characteristics and the scientific method. Because author Kym Wright wanted her children to know all about plants, she covers most of the angles, points to the right questions, and provides labs to supply the answers, embodying the spirit of discovery learning. A large set of vocabulary words are included, and once your children have mastered them, they will know what is usually covered in vocabulary-intensive high school and college courses. Though there is little written work, reproducible lab sheets are provided. Flashcards are printed on card stock so that you can cut them apart. Numerous resources are recommended, and for high schoolers, you will need to get books that are more challenging. You should require more of them as well. Only two books are necessary to work through this course: Janice VanCleave�s Plants and Botany: 49 Science Fair Projects. They are listed in this section.

Review by Farm Country General

In the Botany Unit Study you can learn all about plants from the roots up: life cycles, needs, usage, differences, uniqueness, and comparisons. Microscopic to hands-on labs with plenty of Lab Sheets. Practice/review pages and the 50+ flashcards help students master essential concepts such as flower parts, leaf shapes, and root types. Appropriate for 6th grade through high school ~ this 160+ page study provides an exciting and comprehensive look at the plant world around us. Cathy Duffy says, "Since there are no [homeschool] botany texts written for elementary and high school students, until now those of us who wanted to study botany had to create our own courses from the ground up. This unit study solves that problem and does a great job of structuring a botany course that is both enjoyable and educational."

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