USING THE COMMUNITY TO TEACH PLANT MATERIALS—A REAL-WORLD STUDY IN PLANT IDENTIFICATION

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  • 1 Department of Horticulture, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, 30602

A teaching methodology was employed to use gardeners in the community to help in the teaching of a Herbaceous Perennial Plant Identification class (8 weeks, about 160 taxa). Most universities do not have a diverse collection of herbaceous perennials planted on campus, nor do most campuses have horticultural or botanical gardens for students. Teaching plant materials with photos alone or trying to force materials in the greenhouse is not only a horticultural challenge but seldom provides students with the important identification characteristics (habit, fragrance, fruit) of the taxon. Approximately six gardeners in the community agreed to open their private gardens to the students. Plants are evaluated 2 days before class time, and a list of plants is published on WebCT each week All gardens chosen must be within 15 minutes driving time from campus. Students were able to drive to the gardens, meet the gardeners and were exposed to the plants in garden setting. Potential problems of being unable to drive to gardens, or not being able to return to the gardens to study were not realized. Gardeners embraced the program and students were enriched by studying plants in a natural garden environment. The final examination is conducted in one of the gardens visited by the class. The use of gardeners in the community has been an important part of the class for 10 years.

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