Invite your students to observe and compare a given area of a wildflower meadow or plot with another type of ecosystem, such as a lawn, garden, or wooded area. Have them use data sheets to inventory and compare the different types and numbers of plants and animals in each and to describe other differences they notice. They might also compare soil conditions and moisture levels. Consider asking small groups to create presentations (e.g., slide show, PowerPoint project, play, poster) describing their findings and any inferences or conclusions they've drawn.
Once students have gotten to "know" their wildflower planting, they can design a scavenger hunt for peers or younger students. Here are some sample items: Find . . . a plant that attracts butterflies . . . a flower that would appeal to a pollinator with a long tongue . . . a plant with fuzzy leaves . . . a leaf-eating insect. The class might create a brochure to share with participants that describes what they've learned, through experience or research, about the items being searched for. They could also create a field guide to plants in their wildflower patch.
Challege the class to use their eagle eyes (and hand lenses, if possible) to look for signs of insects and other small animal life in your wildflower meadow. Remind them to look in the soil, under leaves, on flowers, and in the air. After all, many creatures carry on their lives out of sight. What is the largest animal they find? The smallest? The most interesting? How are they interacting with plants? Encourage them to write about and draw pictures of their findings. Each student or pair might hone in one one living thing. What does it feel like? How does it move? What does it eat? How does it interact with other living things? Where does it rest or hide? Does it seem to help, hurt, or not affect the wildflowers?
Invite pairs or small groups of youngsters to explore the connections between wildflowers and the the bees, birds, butterflies, beetles, and other pollinators that visit them. Use the following types of questions to focus their observations: What types of insects or other animals are visiting which flowers? Are some flowers visited more often or only by certain creatures? What kinds of paths do the insects take as they move among flowers? How do you think different flowers entice these visitors? What evidence do you have?
Explore Wildflower Folklore
Did you know that coreopsis seeds (from koris, meaning "bedbug" and opsis, meaning "looks like") were once believed to repel bugs, so were used to stuff mattresses? Wildflowers and native plants have played an important role in people's lives throughout the centuries by providing medicine, food, inspiration for art and writing, and beauty to lift the spirits. It can be fascinating to study their folklore, secrets behind their Latin and common names, and their virtues and uses. The more common the wildflower or weed, the richer its history, number of uses, and legends seem to be. Invite students to research the traditional uses, medicinal and otherwise, of wildflowers in their own patch.