Grade Level: 8-12
- Posterboard for six groups of students
1. As a class, list what the students think are the most important plants for their nation. Discuss why each of these plants may be on the list. Ask the students to give a general location of where these plants (regions and climates) are grown.
2. Relate the background information in the article Taking It to the Bank to the students. You may wish to print it and read it together as a group for greater understanding.
3. Discuss the potential for the changes in their diet, clothing, and lifestyle that would occur if wheat, rice or cotton could no longer be grown in the United States. Would there also be global repercussions from such an event? Tell the students that there are over 100,000 varieties of rice and its relatives stored in seed banks. Why would this be an important fact to the global community?
4. Have the students explain the basics of biodiversity and how a seed bank could assist in the ability to provide greater crop diversity? Could seed banks limit the need to seek a greater diversity of crops in the future?
5. Write the following names on the board:
Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov
6. Divide the students into six work groups. Assign each group to one of the listed individual scientists. Give each group a large sheet of posterboard.
7. Ask the students to draw a large circle in the center of their posterboard. Have them write their scientist’s name in the center of the circle.
8. Each group should write three paragraphs about their scientist and why that person was important to plant conservation on a separate sheet of paper. When their biography is completed they should select key words to highlight on their posterboard. These words will enable the class to gain a visual description of why their contributions were critically important.
9. When all of the group concept maps are complete, ask each group to share their biographies with the class to solidify their work. Place the posterboards on the chalkboard. Help the students see what principles connect these individuals together and how their science builds upon the research of others.
10. Are there things that we still do not understand regarding plants and plant growth and development? What speculations remain about the possible impacts of genetically-modified plants? How do these questions influence the urgency of continued gene collection? What are some contributions that can be made through the school/community garden?
- Ask the students to explore why or why not it would be a good idea to simply store extracted plant DNA, rather than try to store seeds and other plant materials. Have them list some of the advantages and disadvantages of DNA technology.
- There are very few seed banks available on the continent of Africa. Have the students discuss why it would be difficult to collect, maintain, and preserve genetic materials in developing nations. Is plant conservation important enough to allow for federal funding to obtain this genetic information from these locations? Should the United States place a greater emphasis on continued research for strengthening biodiversity?
Saving Our Seeds - organic vegetable seed production in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern United States. Anyone can contribute their seeds, although they are searching for non-commercial varieties, especially those that have stories or family histories associated with the seed. The website contains instructions on the technique and procedure of extracting and preserving seeds of common garden plants.
Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
This book contains incredible personal accounts, as well as, black-and-white drawings from newspapers detailing the devastating facts of the famine. This is a good historical account for middle school students. ISBN: 978-0618548835