Module 4: Teacher's Guide

Time: 7 days, 45-60 minutes/day

Overview: Students build on their knowledge of plants and people by exploring ethnobotany--the relationship between the two--locally and on their distant mountains.

Objectives: To consider how people make use of and rely on plants in their daily lives.

National Standards Addressed (attached below)

Related Activities:

Classroom: When Enough is Too Much (attached below)
Schoolyard: What For? (attached below)


  • Materials for short activity You Ate What? (see Day One of Content Background for more information)
  • Internet access
  • Ingredients and cooking utensils to prepare dishes
  • Ingredients for herbal remedies
  • Journals
  • Materials for two activities

Module Outline:

Day One: Students read Module 4 , Part 1; Conduct You Ate What? short activity.

Day Two: Conduct Schoolyard Activity: What For? (attached below)

Days Three and Four: Students research and prepare authentic Andean, Himalayan, and Appalachian dishes while implementing solar cooking technology.

Day Five: Students prepare herbal remedies.

Day Six: Students read Module 4 , Part 2 and Conduct Classroom Activity: When Enough is Too Much (attached below).

Day Seven: Expedition de-briefing.

Content Background:

Now that students have been introduced to mountain plants and people, they continue their expedition by examining the relationship between the two. Specifically, how do mountain people in the Andes, Himalayas, and Appalachians make use of and rely on the plants around them? How do these relationships compare to the students' relationships with plants?

Day One:

Beginning on the first page of the student materials for Module 4, students can click on their expedition to access the appropriate reading materials. Begin by asking students to read part 1 for this leg of their expedition. Students can read on their own or take turns reading to their teammates. They are asked to complete activities, brainstorm, and answer questions along the way. We recommend that you familiarize yourself with the student materials beforehand. Below we provide additional information to help you effectively guide your students in their explorations.

After reading about some of the plant parts mountain people eat, students are challenged to conduct a mental inventory of the plant parts they eat during a normal day in the United States. Have them refer to the food survey list they compiled in Module Three for ideas. If they didn't conduct the food survey in Module Three, consider having them do so now. The following activity is a good way to introduce students to the many edible parts of plants.

You Ate What???

Necessary Materials
- Variety of fruits and vegetables
- Matching game sheet

Background Information
Have different types of fruits and vegetables available for students to look at and touch as they try to determine what part of the plant these edible objects come from. This activity fits well with a discussion about the difference between fruits and vegetables. A fruit is derived from the ovary of a plant and vegetables are derived from other parts of the plant. It may be useful to display the diagram Flowering Plant Anatomy from Enchanted Learning.

Laying the Groundwork
Begin by asking students, How many foods have you eaten today that you think may have come from a plant? What were those foods? What parts of the plant do you think these foods came from? What characteristics should we look at to determine what part of the plant a fruit or vegetable comes from? Will the shape of the food give us clues? What about the size?

1. Give each team a number of fruits and vegetables and a "matching game sheet" (similar to the one provided below).

2. Have students match the food products with the plant parts from which they come.

What plant part are you eating when you eat the following?

Food                              Plant part

Potato                            Seed

Corn                              Tuber

Broccoli                          Petiole

Asparagus                      Roots

Celery                            Stem

Peanut                           Unopened flower bud

Carrot                            Seed

Lettuce                          Leaves

Students on the Himalayan and Appalachian Expeditions will be introduced to some potentially unfamiliar plant parts in this module, specifically spores, tubers, and rhizomes. Spores are the reproductive structures of seedless plants. Individual spores are capable of producing new plants. Mosses and ferns are examples of seedless plants that produce spores. Tubers are the swollen tips of underground stems. The "eyes" on a potato tuber are nodes from which new plants, both stems and roots, can sprout. Rhizomes are underground stems that grow horizontally at or just below the soil surface. They have nodes and buds along their length, and new plants can arise at the nodes. Bamboo and sugarcane are examples of rhizomatous plants.

Day Two:

Students investigate past and present uses for local plants and draw comparisons between these uses and the use of plants by mountain people in Schoolyard Activity: What For? (attached below).

Days Three and Four:

Using the Internet and library, have students research traditional Andean, Himalayan, and Appalachian dishes to prepare for their classmates. Consider challenging your students to prepare these dishes using solar cooking methods.

Solar cooking was invented by Hoarce de Suassure, a Swiss naturalist, in 1767. Still today, 100,000 people around the world rely on the sun to cook their food. Solar cooking offers a viable alternative to cooking with wood, especially in mountainous regions where wood is scarce and time consuming to gather. Each team could prepare an item native to the region where their expedition is taking place (sassafras tea in Appalachia, for example) or the teams could work together to prepare a crop that grows in all three regions (potatoes, for example).

Solar cooking works by reflecting sunlight onto a pot that is filled with food. Students can easily build their own solar box cooker. Illustrated construction plans and a detailed list of necessary materials can be found on the Solar Cookers International Website called Solar Cooking Archive.

Plan for cooking to take twice as long as in a conventional oven. The good news is that it is nearly impossible to burn food in a solar cooker so you and your students can put food in the cooker, leave it, and come back later in the day. The cooker will reach temperatures around 150° C (300° F) (but will cook just fine as long as it reaches a temperature of at least 90° C (200° F)). Once the food is cooked, it will stay hot until you are ready to eat it (as long as the sun stays out!).

The easiest foods to cook in a solar cooker include eggs, rice, fruit, vegetables, fish, and chicken. These will take approximately 1-2 hours to cook. For suggestions on what and how to cook in a solar cooker, visit Solar Cooking Hints.

Day Five:

In addition to edible mountain plants, students are introduced to some of the ways mountain people make use of medicinal plants. As a homework assignment, ask students to conduct a "Supermarket Survey." The next time one of their parents goes to the grocery store, students can tag along and visit the pharmacy department. Ask students to inventory the shelves of herbal remedies and vitamins. Can you find any products made from plants? Does the label tell you which plant parts are used? What are they? Have students make a list of what they find in their journal and share it with the class.

Plants have been used throughout history as sources of healing preparations, stimulants, and "constitutionals"-and even to repel demons. Folk remedies were often passed down from generation to generation. If you decide not to conduct the Schoolyard Activity above, have students reenact this tradition by interviewing their relatives or a local herbalist to investigate traditional uses for herbs. Invite these people to class to teach students how to make some of their herbal remedies, thereby passing this knowledge on to the next generation.

If students are unable to track down any traditional herbal remedies from their own family, they can use the following "recipes" to create a relaxation pillow or tea. It is very important for you to instruct students never to concoct plant remedies on their own. Plants can hurt as well as heal!

Relaxation Pillow
1. Grow or buy chamomile and lavender.
2. Dry and crush the chamomile flowers and lavender leaves.
3. Place a few tablespoons of each dried herb in a muslin bag.
4. Fill the remainder of the bag with split peas.
5. Close the bag with a ribbon or rubber band and shake to evenly distribute the herbs.

To use, spray the bag lightly with water. If students are treating a headache or muscle tension, heat the bag in a microwave for 1 minute. If students are treating an injury, place the bag in a freezer for 30 minutes.

Consider having students design information cards to attach to their pillows. The information cards can describe the contents of the pillow and instructions for use. They can make enough relaxation pillows to sell to the school community, similar to the way mountain products are sold in village markets.

1. Grow or buy chamomile, mint, basil, and rosemary.
2. Dry and crush the flowers of chamomile and the leaves of the other herbs.
3. Put 1 to 2 tablespoons of the dried mixture into a tea infuser.
4. Steep in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 minutes.
5. Drink and relax!

Day Six:

Have students read part 2 of their student materials for this leg of the expedition. In this section, they are introduced to the idea that mountain resources have not always been--and, in many places, still aren't today--sustainably harvested.

Next, conduct Classroom Activity: When Enough is Too Much (attached below). Many of the mountain resources that students have "seen" on their expeditions are Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs), biological materials collected from forests that are not lumber or fuelwood. This activity encourages students to think about local Non-Timber Forest Products. They are challenged to identify threats to local NTFPs and to develop an action plan for contributing to the sustainable harvesting of these important resources.

Day Seven: Expedition de-briefing

Leave some time at the end of this expedition leg for students to reflect on the day's experiences in their journals. Consider asking students to create a base camp Jeopardy game with questions that reflect what they have learned during this leg.

At the end of the expedition day, ask students to also record in their journals any new evidence they have of the female Incan mummy (Andes team), the yeti (Himalayan team), or damage from mountaintop mining (Appalachian team). This is a good time for the Sacred Mountain Expert, the Zoologist, and the Environmentalist to share with their teammates what they know about the Incan mummy, the yeti, and mountain top mining, respectively. Ask them, What evidence did you discover? What made you think it might be related to the mummy? To the yeti? To mountain top mining? Encourage them to be creative and let their imaginations run wild during this time. At the end of the unit, students can use these journal entries to generate a report that they will send to their expedition sponsor either the National Geographic Society, The Mountain Institute, or the Environmental Protection Agency.

Assessment Opportunities:

Journal entries: Answers to questions; Reflections on expedition experience.

Expedition de-briefing: Completion of base camp Jeopardy; Expedition mission observations.

Other: Collaborative group work; Research skills; Participation in activities and class discussions.


Students can:

1. Draw connections between human biology and the use of plants as food and medicine. For example, this module could be integrated into a unit on nutrition. Many students are unaware of where their food comes from. This module could be used to introduce students to the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables, the products of plants. Also, students can examine the mechanisms whereby medicinal plants boost the immune system and aid in healing.

2. Plant a kitchen garden representing some of the food crops grown by the people living in their expedition regions. If space is not available in the schoolyard, they can create small gardens in 5-gallon buckets. Challenge students to include plants that they know, from their reading, are found in their expedition areas. For example, students on the Andes Expedition Team might plant potatoes, corn, barley, and coffee. The Himalayan Expedition Team might also plant potatoes, corn, and barley, but also wheat and rice. The Appalachian Expedition Team could plant a variety of vegetables, including the beans, potatoes, and tomatoes they "saw" growing in the backyards of houses in the Appalachians. Each team can create their own kitchen garden or the teams can work together to plant a single mountain kitchen garden, with different sections devoted to plants growing in each region. During the growing season, students can research how these food crops are prepared for eating in their mountain areas. How do people in the Andes prepare potatoes? When the produce is ready to be harvested from the garden, have a cooking day when students prepare and feast on dishes from their own and the two other mountain regions.

3. Contribute new data, information, and materials to classroom mountain displays.

Related Resources

Edible Plants

Elias, T. and Dykeman, P. 1990. Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide. Sterling Publications, New York, NY. [ISBN: 0-8069-7488-5]

Gibbons, E. 1979. Euell Gibbons' Handbook of Edible Plants. Donning Company Publishers. [ASIN: 0915442825]
(Note: This book is out of print and may be difficult to purchase but is worth checking for in your local library.)

Hughes, M.S. Plants We Eat. Lerner Publications Company, Minneapolis, MN. Book series on the history and use of food plants by people.
Reading level: Grade 5-8

Medicinal Plants

Sumner, J. 2000. The Natural History of Medicinal Plants. Timber Press, Portland, OR. [ISBN: 0-88192-438-0]

Utilitarian Plants

Cannon, J. and Cannon, M. 2003. Dye Plants and Dyeing. Timber Press, Portland, OR. [ISBN: 0-88192-572-1]

Non-Timber Forest Products
Virginia Tech Department of Wood Science and Forest Products Website.

Bamboo-The Miracle Grass video. The International Development Research Centre.
Documents the extensive use of bamboo by people in developing countries.

General Ethnobotany

Bruchac, J. and Caduto, M.J. 1995. Native Plant Stories. Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, CO. [ISBN: 1-5559-1212-5]
Illustrated Native American myths from 18 different tribes.
Reading level: Grades 4-8

Bruchac, J. and Caduto, M.J. 1995. Keepers of Life: Native Plant Stories. Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, CO. [ISBN: 1-5559-1214-1]

Caduto, M.J., and Bruchac, J. 1997. Keepers of Life: Discovering Plants through Native American Stories and Earth Activities for Children. Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, CO. [ISBN: 1-5559-1387-3]
Nineteen stories incorporating the botany, plant ecology, and natural history of Native American plants.

Manandhar, N.P. 2002. Plants and People of Nepal. Timber Press, Portland, OR. [ISBN: 0-88192-527-6]

Moerman, D.E. 1998. Native American Ethnobotany. Timber Press, Portland, OR. [0-8819-2453-9]

Schultes, R.E. and Von Reis, S. 1995. Ethnobotany: Evolution of a Discipline. Timber Press, Portland, OR. [ISBN: 0-9311-4628-3]

Plants and People: The newsletter for the Society for Economic Botany. (Note: Back issues are available online.)

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