Botany in 8 Lessons

The newest course by Ellen McHenry, this one takes middle-school and early high-school students on an activity-filled adventure through botany. The 8 lessons include: plant cells and photosynthesis, plant classification, non-vascular plants, the vascular system, leaves and trees, plant reproduction, plant adaptation, and plant diseases. Like some of her other science programs, this course book is made up of two parts: a student text (about 100 pages) and a teacher activity book (also about 100 pages). Note that the student text is also available separately. This student text is formatted a bit differently than some of her others. Each chapter is divided into two parts. The first part presents the basic information on that topic, while the second part goes into greater detail for the more interested or advanced student. So all students will read the first part, and the second part would be optional, at your discretion. This volume is also a bit different in that there are full-color illustrations and photos which really liven the book up.

Each chapter closes with a group of student activities which may include pencil-and-paper type activities (like word puzzles or quizzes) or internet links to videos, images, or online activities. The author has set up a YouTube channel for this course, and has carefully selected quite a few short videos for each chapter. These add an interactive feel to the course, and some are really pretty neat.

The teacher activity section of the book includes answer keys to activities in the student book as well as a wealth of hands-on activities for each chapter. These activities include experiments, arts and crafts activities, games, and much more than your standard "plunk a piece of celery in colored water" fare. Just a small sampling of these would include: testing the strength of germinating seeds, drawing a cross-section of a leaf, dissecting a flower, playing two games about photosynthesis, going on a scavenger hunt, testing soil pH, experimenting with ethylene gas and ripening fruit, creating a streaming chloroplasts flip book, playing a game about poisonous plants, and much more. A final review test is also included in this section, covering content from all eight chapters. The format of Ellen McHenry's courses lends themselves very well to a co-op setting, but they would be incredibly enjoyable to do with a group of your own children as well. Younger children, or even high-schoolers will want to get in on some of these activities! - Jess

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