Innovative Teaching of Botany to Master Gardener Trainees

in HortScience
Author: Linda McMahan1
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  • 1 Oregon State University, Department of Horticulture, OSU Extension, Yamhill County, McMinnville, OR, 97128

The science of botany is often daunting to people who are training to become Master Gardener volunteers. However, the range of natural diversity of plants as well as practical information about plant anatomy are essential foundations for other parts of Master Gardener training. I will present a botany module that I have developed over the past 5 years. The module focuses on relevance to the trainee and builds on basic information to examine more complex aspects of botany, all in the space of the 3–6 hours often allotted for basic botany training. It begins with a “tour” of the plant kingdom and plant relatives like algae and fungi, mosses, liverworts, and ferns. I follow this with basic morphology of stems, roots, and leaves; this basic morphology is used to answer the question of how water and minerals move from the soil into and throughout plants, even reaching the height of the tallest tree. A short segment on mycorhizzae reinforces water and mineral transport, while providing a link to the plant kingdom tour. The mycorhizzal section also reinforces or complements training on soils, which is often presented in another portion of the training schedule. Finally, a segment on flowers introduces basic terminology and winds up a discussion of how to recognize monocotyledons and dicotyledons. Several optional hands-on activities help active learners assimilate the information and provide needed reflective time for more traditional learners. The module has been adopted as the official OSU Extension Master Gardener™ Program botany module in Oregon.

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