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1927 Map of the Arboretum

Plant Parts

Children measure circumference of silver maple
Children measure circumference of silver maple

Grades 1-3

Children use hand lens to examine azaleas.
Children use hand lens to examine azaleas.

Plant Parts complements the Boston Public School’s second grade life study titled New Plants, which explores plant life cycles and the functions of each plant part. In the classroom unit, students study “new” plants, growing brassicas, bulbs, and wheat seedlings to learn about the processes of germination, flowering, and fruiting. The Plant Parts field study introduces students to some of the oldest trees growing at the Arboretum, reinforcing the biological functions of individual plant parts learned in the New Plants unit through various activities. This program lasts two hours.

After an introductory game to pre-assess student’s knowledge about plant parts and their functions, students begin their exploration in the landscape. Using probes to search for and collect a maple seedling, students observe and discuss plant parts and connect this small seedling to the mature maple trees growing nearby. Next, students move to the linden (Tilia spp.) collection to find evidence of roots, following and measuring their paths and noting their structures. Through discussion, students learn the function of roots and relate this to canopy size. Using the same tree or others nearby, students next focus on tree trunks. They measure the circumference of the tree and look at tree ring samples to discuss age and growth. Students come to understand trunk function through dramatic play and songs.

Following this exploration, the focus shifts to leaves and their function. Students learn a simple yet accurate explanation of the process of photosynthesis, and come to understand the difference between human food consumption and how sugar is produced in the leaves of plants. Using “bees’ legs”, students search for open flowers to pollinate, learning the function of flowers and their component parts. Finally, students search for fruits and seeds in the landscape, collecting samples and discussing the functions of these structures.

The program concludes with a review of the program’s explorations, either through a plant part game, a dramatic interpretation of a plant part poem, or by a group song. In each case, students are asked to identify the six plant parts and their functions.

If you are a Boston Public School teacher and would like to register for a program, email Ana Maria Caballero or call 617.384.9032.

MA Science Standards correlations:

  • 1-LS1-1 Use evidence to explain that (a) different animals use their body parts and senses in different ways to see, hear, grasp objects, protect themselves, move from place to place, and seek, find, and take in food, water, and air, and (b) plants have roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits that are used to take in water, air, and other nutrients, and produce food for the plant.
  • 2-LS2-3(MA) Develop and use models to compare how plants and animals depend on their surroundings and other living things to meet their needs in the places they live.
  • 2-LS4-1 Use texts, media, or local environments to observe and compare (a) different kinds of living things in an area, and (b) differences in the kinds of living things living in different types of areas.
  • 3-LS-1-1 Use simple graphical representations to show that different types of organisms have unique and diverse life cycles. Describe that all organisms have birth, growth, reproduction, and death in common but there are a variety of ways in which these happen.