Monday, April 23, 2007

Teach Your Children Well

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, along with a group of experts*, has debuted a new invasive weed curriculum, Alien Invasion: Plants on the Move, a series of seven units covering various aspects of the ecology, data collection and management of weedy plants. Each unit splits out into three sections aimed at elementary, middle and high school students. Some of the activities, like the elementary school weed inventory, sound like a lot of fun. Others, like the high school-level weed prevention, sound rather silly:

  • milkweed pod or some other plant with a large number of seeds that can easily spread by wind
  • fan
  1. Set up a fan in the classroom.
  2. Ask a student volunteer to remove the open milkweed pod from the classroom so the seeds don’t spread.
  3. As the student walks past the fan, turn on the fan and let the wind disperse the seeds.
  4. Ask students to clean up the mess.
  5. Discuss how it is easier to prevent weeds from entering an area than removing them once they have become established.

I LOVE Step 4! It brings back fond memories of a game I played with my younger brother called "52 Pickup" (funny, we only played that one time). Teachers should probably add Step 4b to this lesson plan: "Listen to high school students yell in disgust as they realize they've been tricked into cleaning up a huge mess."

*Well, that's what it said in the email I got, but the website gives creation and hosting credits to a private company.


BerryBird said...

Wow, you are right, that high school lesson sounds like torture. I don't imagine it would be too succesful.

The elementary school plan does sound like fun. I'm not sure squares of paper are the most practical medium for seeds, though. If there is any wind at all, many will just blow away, which might be a valuable lesson in dispersal, but the surrounding community might not be appreciative. I know I am not thrilled with all the junk that blows into my yard.

Michael said...

I'm confident that an appropriate compensation plan will address the cleanup issue. If I were teaching the high school class I would bring in a big bag of hard candies and redeem the seeds for candy. There are a lot of seeds in a milkweed pod though, I might need to think about the rate of exchange.

Jennifer Forman Orth said...

Bribery! The lesson plan says nothing about bribery! Must add Step 4c..."Bribe students with candy" and then 5b, "Discuss merits of bounty hunting programs in the management of invasive species."

BerryBird, you are absolutely right about that one. Perhaps cardboard squared would be better. My first thought was rocks but then I thought better of it :-).