Studying Wildflowers with Kids - Perfect for Distance Learning

8:01 AM

May is a great time to study wildflowers.  You may be wondering what makes a wildflower different from a regular flower?  Wildflowers are special because these flowers only bloom for a very short period of time.  These flowers depend on a warm, frost-free, forest floor with a tree canopy bare of its leaves. When we think about when this occurs, it is only for a few months in the spring, usually around the end of March to the middle of May for most parts of the United States.  Once the leaves come back in on the trees, the wildflowers cannot get enough sunlight and they retreat underground and wait for next year.

I try my hardest to take advantage of each wildflower season when I am teaching.  There is so much to learn about these unique flowers.  To help you teach your kids about wildflowers I compiled a list of 4 topics to include in your study.

1. Learn how to identify wildflowers

Wildflowers are interesting for many reasons but one reason why I love teaching them to my students is that there is a 5 step identification process for each flower.  It's super easy for kids to go through the checklist each time they find a new flower and try to identify it on their own using a wildflower field guide.

The 5-step checklist is:

1. Is it a wildflower?

A wildflower is specifically an uncultivated flower that grows wildly and has not been genetically modified by humans.  A wildflower needs to be a flower and not a tree or shrub.  Flowers on trees and shrubs are not considered a wildflower.

Some questions you can ask to help you during this step are:
- Does it have a singular woody stem? If yes - Tree     If no - go to next question
- Does it have multiple woody stems? If yes - Shrub    If no - it may be a wildflower!

Spring Beauty [Photo by Wild and Growing]

2. How many petals does it have and are they symmetrical? 

For this step, you can teach your kids about symmetry and counting, depending on age.  This step will help you to find the flower in a guide book since many guidebooks organize by the number of petals.

Canadian Bunchberry [Photo by Wild and Growing]
3. What is the leaf shape?

Leaves come in many different shapes.  Some shapes include hastate, lanceolate, lobed, spear-shaped, tri-folate, cordate, truncate, spatulate, palmate, obovate, obcordate, and palate.  For an easy to use guide, check out my Leaf Shape Poster & Card set.  

Studying leaf shapes is also a prominent lesson in Montessori classrooms.  It helps children recognize shapes and begin to learn botany.

Painted Trillium [Photo by Wild and Growing]

4. How are the leaves arranged along the stem?

Just like the many different shapes of leaves, there are also many different ways that leaves can be arranged along the stem of the plant.  Some arrangements are alternate, opposite, whorled, pinnate, bipinnate, and even pinnate.

Most flower guide books will have an introduction that will cover different arrangements to help you.

Lady Slipper [Photo by Wild and Growing]

5.  What is the petal color?

This one should be easy and most guidebooks organize their flowers based on color!

2. Learn the life cycle of a flower

Another great lesson to include in your wildflower study is teaching the life cycle of a flower.  You can teach this by teaching a generic life cycle of a plant.  Growing seeds is a great hands-on activity to do with your kids to help them understand this better. You can grow seeds in water so that they can see the roots grow or you can do this in recycled cups!

3. Learn about the pollination process

Swallowtail butterfly [Photo by Wild and Growing]

It wouldn't be a flower study if you didn't teach about pollination.  This is a great opportunity to learn the importance of wildflowers and pollinators.  Many pollinators have unique life cycles and adaptations that specifically align with certain flowers.  Some have co-evolved with certain flowers.  You may choose to teach about their unique lifecycles, their importance, and how you can help them survive. 

Here are some pollinators to teach about:
- Bees
- Other insects
- Hummingbirds
- Bats
- Butterflies

4. Go on a nature walk

Nature walk through a field of wildflowers [Photo by Wild and Growing]

Last but certainly not least, wrap up everything that you've learned with a few nature walks.  Try and find some wildflowers.  Can you identify them?  It is important that when going on nature walks you are observers and scientists.  This means you should not pick any flower that you find (most wildflowers are rare!).  If you wish to bring some of its beauty home with you, draw it in a nature journal or take a photo.

If you do take some cool pictures of wildflowers, tag us @wildandgrowing I love seeing your photos!

I hope this post gives you some ideas for your next nature-based lesson.  Even if you are not a wildflower expert, take this opportunity to learn about them with your children.  A sense of curiosity is all you need.

Keep exploring,
Wild and Growing

by Wild and Growing

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