Many Uses of Plants
Social Studies/ScienceStudents will broaden their knowledge of non-food plant products that are in common use.
BackgroundPlants have important uses in addition to being a valuable source of food. It isn't always easy, though, to identify plant products. This is a brief list of some common plant products:
- Common Plant Products (PDF file)
What You Need
- Plant Uses Research Form (PDF file)
- World: Countries map (PDF file)
- research materials, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, plant books, and the Internet
What to Do
- Ask students to make a list of objects that they think might be made from a plant or a tree. When students have finished, hold a class discussion on the items on their list. Suggest that students continue to add items to their list during the discussion.
- Ask students why it might be difficult to identify items made from plants (most items are not specifically labeled; many items are made to look like they're made from natural materials but are actually plastic or other man-made materials).
- Provide students with research materials. Then hand out one or more copies of the Plant Uses Research Form and World: Countries map to each student. From the list provided, assign one or two plants to each student. Depending on the number of students in your class, you may have more than one student study the same plant. Or you may wish to divide the class into small groups and assign one or more plants to each group.
- Explain to students that they will do research, focusing on five areas of information: scientific name, common name, location where the plant or tree is grown, one or more products that are made from this plant, and where the products are commonly used. Have students complete each section of the Plant Uses Research Form. Then have students mark on the world map the name of the country where the plant is grown.
- Have students share what they have learned with the class.
- Have students draw a simple cross section of a room, such as bedroom, car garage, business office, or barn. Then have students draw assorted objects in the room that are made from plant products. Have students label the objects and the materials used to make the objects.
- Set out classroom microscopes or stereoscopes and have students examine a variety of cloth and paper samples. Have students draw what they see and write descriptions of their observations.
- Hold a class discussion identifying the people who rely on knowing what a product is made of and why the knowledge is important to their work or profession.
- Challenge students to think of new uses for plants.
- Have students do research on objects that were once made of natural materials, but are now human-made.
PFAF Database Search
This comprehensive website contains data on more than 7,000 plants. Included are Latin and common names, plant uses, and geographic areas of growth. The site also has an advanced search function.