Planting Seeds of Knowledge Botany Buddies Teach Younger Kids

Article excerpt

Byline: Melynda Findlay Daily Herald Staff Writer

The Westfield School gym was a peaceful picture, with second- graders working hand in hand with fourth- and fifth- graders, reading books, coloring - and making monsters.

It wasn't a Frankenstein experiment gone wrong. It was just a day in the life of the Botany Buddies.

The Botany Buddies program is the brainchild of Westfield teacher Tim Brinker.

It's a four- to six-week unit during which his fourth- and fifth- grade multi-age classroom learned all about botany through a variety of activities. As a culmination to the unit, they shared what they learned with both kindergarten and second-grade students.

"This school does a lot of buddy activities," Brinker said. "I've seen a lot of benefit from them."

The school also does "reading buddies," and other buddy-type projects throughout the year, said William Midgett, the school's principal.

"It's a nice experience for both of them," Midgett said. "For the older kids, working with the younger kids helps them to develop some compassion for them, and they reflect upon how things were for them when they were that size. It gives them a sense of what their own growth has been. For the younger ones, it sets them up a positive role model."

The unit started with basic classroom instruction about plants from Brinker. They read a book called "Top Secret," a fictionalized account of a boy who delves into an experiment on "human photosynthesis."

Armed with their basic botany knowledge, the students then devised experiments about plants, and carried them out.

Daniel Kelly, 11, did an experiment about talking to plants, and whether that helps them grow.

" (Brinker) gave us a few ideas, and when he gave that, I thought, hey, that would be interesting, so I did the experiment, just to see what would happen," Daniel said.

The result?

Well, Daniel kept one plant "Mr. Talkative," on the table during family meals, and sang "The Star Spangled Banner" to it daily.

"Mr. Outcast," the other plant, was ignored.

Mr. Talkative not only grew taller, but much taller, Daniel said.

"I wasn't all that surprised," he added with a shrug. "I found out that when we talk, we give off carbon dioxide, which the plants breathe in to help it grow."

The students all presented their experiments in poster form, detailing their experiments with pictures, drawings and narratives.

Once the experiments were finished, the students got ready for the "buddy" portion of the unit, by making books for younger children - either a storybook or an alphabet book, all about plants. …