I started volunteering last year at the Belle Isle Conservatory, working with Detroit Public schools children. This program is possible due to the generosity of the GM Foundation/Detroit Grand Prix Grand Prixmiere working with the Michigan DNR and the Belle Isle Conservancy. There will be over 800 3rd and 4th graders from the Detroit Public and Hamtramck schools participating this year. The schools closest to Belle Isle are able to participate because of their proximity to the island. The field trips are designed to enhance the M-STEP, formerly MEAP, test and the curriculum was designed with the DPS Office of Science. It is so rewarding working with the kids. They are so curious and eager to learn about the plants. They especially love the carnivorous plants.
We take them through the conservatory, talking about the different environments, including the desert, the fernery, and the rainforest. We discuss the adaptations the plants have made to survive in the environment they are growing in. We cover subjects like roots, stems, leaves, and photosynthesis.
This year we have added a project the kids can do. They work in groups of 2 and 3 and are asked to draw an imaginary plant that includes things we’ve talked about, such as roots, leaves, and stems. They then are given a particular environment to base their drawing on. It could be a dry environment or rainy. This was the first day and I just have to share these drawings with you. We weren’t sure how this would work and were completely surprised how much they loved it and really came up with some awesome plants and such creative names!
How cute is this one?! We talked about the adaptations plants make to survive. The “old man cactus” has long “hair” that we explained is like a hat or sunscreen to keep them from burning in the sun. Notice how they called it the “grandpa” cactus in the drawing. So cute! That is so much better than “old man” cactus. I think I’ll steal that idea.
We also have a vermicomposting bin (worm farm) and the kids are able to see the process and the outcome of worms in our soil. These kids above included them in their drawings. Awesome!
These drawings will be on display weekly at the conservatory and the kids can bring their families back to see their drawings and show them what they’ve learned at the conservatory. If they come back they also get a temporary tatoo from the conservatory. I love that we are helping kids to be aware of the world around them and most especially plants. Wish we could send one home with them. After all, everyone needs a little green in their lives!