Using Plant Structure in your teaching
Plant Structure has been used successfully in undergraduate teaching at The University of Waikato by Professor Warwick Silvester.
Plant Structure was developed to meet the needs of a second year undergraduate course in Plant Growth Development and Reproduction.
Structure was seen as an essential tool in the understanding of developmental, ecological and reproductive biology but rather than spend five weeks ploughing through all the cells tissues and organs of the plant body, we have adopted a problem oriented approach.
Students are provided with a short introduction to plant structure and then exposed to major resources of textbook, microscope, section cutting and staining, photomicroscopy and Plant Structure (the CD).
We then ask each of them to pose and research a developmental, anatomical or ecological problem that has a structural component. These problems vary enormously with examples such as sun and shade leaves, C3 and C4 anatomy, conifer/dicot leaves, roots of hydrophytes and xerophytes, tendrils, climbers, etc.
These projects are written up in the format of a scientific paper in a named journal and illustrated with drawings, colour photomicrography and tables. Plant Structure then becomes one of several resources that they must dip into frequently. It is available in the computer laboratory and they may borrow or purchase a copy. In addition, material on basic structure is tested, in a similar way that the tests are used in the CD.
We do still require that all students investigate prepared slides of basic plant anatomy and are able to prepare hand cut stained sections.
The quality of work, and above all the enthusiasm for the subject by students, has risen significantly since the introduction of this method of teaching.