Archive for the ‘teaching and learning’ Category

Determined to do their part to combat “plant blindness”, the Hortus botanicus Leiden in the Netherlands created a unique program that addresses this pesky issue on a multigenerational level.

The Garden’s multigenerational project began in Summer 2014. Centered around an exhibition of prehistoric plants, Oerplanten Atelier (Prehistoric Plants Workshop) consisted of workshops about drawing, photography, etching and monotype.

Hanneke Jelles, the Garden’s Director of Education, discussed this project at a recent international congress on education in botanic gardens. She explained that while addressing “plant blindness” was one of their motivations, it was not the Garden’s only motivation. The multigenerational format was conceived partly out of the Garden’s need to connect with the 20-somethings in Leiden who were not visiting the botanic garden.

To reach out to this group, the Garden hit the streets running. Hanneke explained the Garden marketed heavily to college students (art students specifically) and encouraged students to bring a grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc. with them to the workshop. She explained the Garden also reached out to members of Leiden’s older population and paired them with young adults.

Their planning and hard work paid off. Soon after the program was launched, the Garden’s classrooms and public spaces filled with conversations between young and old. Leiden’s experienced residents shared their recollections of plants and told stories, while younger residents learned how plants were grown and used. All the while the generations bonded, learned new things about each other, and everyone discovered new things about plants and the arts. Making their success even sweeter, the Garden saw a change in the 20-something crowd. It turns out botanical gardens aren’t such a bad place after all.

The Oerplanten Atelier project generated a lot of interest in plants and botanical illustration. So much so, that Hortus botanics Leiden is launching a course in technical drawing this fall, free for college students. This course will be taught by scientific illustrator and botanical artist, Esmeé Winkel.

Hanneke explains:

In a series of six days, a group of 2/3 students and 1/3 other interested people will learn about different aspects of drawing. For the college students the course is free of charge. The aim is not to make beautiful pictures, but to make clear pictures, that demonstrate what the students have seen in the subject they are drawing. Drawing is used as a method to concentrate on an object, to look at it very intensely, and to report what is discovered. Topics to be covered are: pollinators and plants (line), making field notes (quick and complete), leaves and cups (hair structures), fruits (volume), seeds (pen and ink, dissecting microscope), tropical plants (details). People can choose to attend all the days, or choose the days and subjects that suit them best.

We expect that the mix of university students and other people will give a good atmosphere, as it did during the ‘oerplanten atelier’ (prehistoric plants atelier) last year. We also feel that offering workshops in scientific drawing meets a need of our visitors.

Hortus botanicus Leiden also offers many public programs about plants and botanical art by Anita Walsmit Sachs. While most of these programs are in Dutch, some are in English. Anita’s upcoming classes include a five-day summer workshop (July 27-31, 2015) and a four-day winter workshop (November 3-6, 2015). Visit Anita’s website for more information (or view English version).

Learn more about Hortus botanicus Leiden

Oerplanten Atelier Slideshow

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Photos courtesy Hortus botanicus Leiden.

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Cut flowers wilt before your eyes.
Slender plants bend in the wind.
Leaves sag when a branch is cut off a plant or when a plant is removed from soil.

There is no way to avoid these scenarios. Change is inevitable.
How to get comfortable with all this change?

How can you teach students they can adapt to change?

Consider this five-minute exercise created by art educator, Sarah Grow.
Grow describes this simple activity in The Not-So-Still Life, a one-page article published in SchoolArts magazine.

Grow developed her activity after reading Ten Lessons the Arts Teach by Elliot Eisner and modeled it after Lesson #4 which states:

Learning in the arts requires the ability and willingness to surrender to the unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds.

To teach this lesson in her classroom, Grow creates a still life using a bowl, apples, an artichoke, a potato and a container of mints. She then informs her students they have five minutes to draw the arrangement she has set before them.

When students are one-minute into their drawing, Grow takes a bite out of an apple and moves the potato. At Minute 2, she takes another bite out of an apple and switches the position of the mints and the artichoke. At Minute 3 and Minute 4, she changes things even more. At Minute 5, her student’s drawings are complete.

While Grow’s students might think she is a bit out of her mind at Minute 1, they catch on to what she is doing, surrender to the unanticipated changes and deal with the problems they encounter, each in their own unique way.

Grow created this activity for middle school students. It is available online for free.

Literature Cited

Four years ago we learned about The Botany Studio at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The Studio’s senior artist, Kandis Elliot, was our guest and their poster about fungi had received First Place for Informational Graphics in the eighth annual International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge 2010 sponsored by the journal Science and the National Science Foundation.

Today the Botany Studio operates a Botany Outreach Store featuring not only their collection of botany posters, but also digital media and selected publications about the plants of Wisconsin.

If you’re looking for posters about plants for your classroom or program, be sure to visit the Botany Studio. You’ll find posters about the following topics:

  • Introduction to Fungi
  • Classification of Fruits
  • Specialization in Flowers
  • Plant Modifications
  • Pollination and Pollinators
  • Carnivorous Plants
  • Plant Colors
  • Life Cycle of Arabidopsis thaliana
  • The Annotated Big Bucky
  • The Tree of Life

These posters would be a great addition to a classroom, lab, or nature center.
Be sure to take a look!

More about the Botany Studio

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Last week the Nepalese Botanical Drawings of Dr. Francis Buchanan were hung at the Linnean Society of London. This collection of reproductions are of plants studied and described by Buchanan who served as Surgeon-Naturalist on the first British mission to Kathmandu (1802-3).

This impressive collection can be viewed online on the Linnean Society’s website. Go to The Buchanan-Hamilton Collection of Paintings to view this exciting and historic collection of 116 illustrations and paintings.

News of the exhibition made me think about the tireless efforts of people across the globe who document plants so that others may learn about them. We have all been fortunate to learn from some of these remarkable people here at ArtPlantae.

After you viewthe Buchanan collection, I invite you to revisit a few conversations with special guests. Go on a virtual tour of the herbarium at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden to learn about what goes on behind the scenes. Visit The Botany Studio at the University of Wisconsin and drop in on the photography studio of Anna Laurent.

As these examples show, there are many creative ways to document plants.
How do you blend art and science when documenting plants?

Also See

The Botanical Drawings of Francis Buchanan

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Why bother with tallgrass prairies?

Whybother with tallgrass prairies?

Award-winning botanical artist and educator Heeyoung Kim continues her work documenting America’s prairies in Project 200: Botanical Documentation of Tallgrass Prairie, a project in which she is documenting 200 native tallgrass prairie plants and building an image database for scientific and educational use.

Heeyoung has worked to bring attention to the fragile state of America’s tallgrass prairies for many years. A combination of human activities have reduced the size of this ecosystem so much, that less than 1% of America’s original prairies remain. Heeyoung is working tirelessly to document prairie plants before they become extinct.

To continue building a database that will benefit future generations, Heeyoung has launched an Indiegogo campaign to help cover expenses and outreach activities. She estimates that Project 200 will take 10 years to complete if she paints full-time. Supporters of Project 200 will receive updates about the project and a gift of appreciation. Contribution requests begin at $5.

Learn more about Project 200 and pledge your support.

Go to Project 200!

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There is nothing better than a good story about people and plants. If you like to read about plants, people and history too, consider reading The Big Apples of New York: The Story of How New York State Became The Big Apple by A.L. DuBois.

DuBois is a native New Yorker and a botanical artist who first learned about New York’s agricultural history when she moved to the Hudson Valley after graduating from college. At this time, she also learned that her family is linked to the founding of Flushing, Queens, the first apple town in the United States. Research on her family and the history of New York revealed a lack of books linking the state’s apple history to it’s current history, so she decided to combine her passion for history with her passion for botanical art and write a book of her own.

In The Big Apples of New York, DuBois explains apple history and symbolism, how the apple was the first fruit tree imported by colonists and how New York state established itself as a major apple producing area. She writes about the Prince family nursery, the first commercial nursery in the New World, and the prominent Livingston family — their orchards, hardships, successes and their link to the historic Montgomery estate. She also explores the mystery surrounding the expression “The Big Apple” and its link to slavery and the Underground Railroad. Her historical account of events occurring before, during and after the Civil War is interesting, disturbing and will change how you view apples at the grocery store.

DuBois’ book is as much about the current state of apples in present-day New York as it is about its history.

Chenango Strawberry. © A.L. DuBois, All rights reserved

Chenango Strawberry. © A.L. DuBois, All rights reserved

Garden historians, teachers, fruitarians, and anyone with an interest in apples will be pleased to learn that family-friendly events such as apple festivals are alive and well in New York. DuBois shares information about 9 festivals, one of which has an annual attendance approaching 70,000. She also shares how the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) honors the state’s apple history and discusses the orchard replenishment program by Slow Food NYC.

Included in The Big Apples are apple recipes for treats such as Apple Cobbler by the CIA and Fidget Pye, an apple, onion and bacon pie dating back to 1795. Also included are Apple Facts from the USDA, instructions about how to grow an apple tree from seed like the colonists once did, and a directory to 190 apple orchards in New York.
DuBois’ full-color botanical illustrations were created using watercolor, Derwent colored pencils and tempera paint. It took her more than two years to draw and paint the twenty-five varieties featured in her book.

The Big Apples of New York: The Story of How New York State Became The Big Apple is a self-published title and can be ordered directly from the author for $30.99. Please allow one week for shipping.

Literature Cited

DuBois, A.L. 2013. The Big Apples of New York: The Story of How New York State Became The Big Apple.

Do you have a question for Ann about her research or the botanical illustrations created for her book?
Post your question below.

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As you know, then purpose of my Plants, Life, Riverside project is to make plants more visible in our increasingly busy world. It’s about telling the “plant story” of a suburban city and demonstrating we don’t need to travel to a designated natural area to see plants, animals and nature. Today I share with you an activity that not only supports this position, it also helps children and adults establish a sense of place about where they live.

I have always had an interest in maps. My interest in maps began when I saw an old globe (complete with sea monsters) at the Huntington Library when I was a young. Years later I was able to learn more about maps in a cartography class I took as an elective in college. I enjoyed the class very much. I got to sit still, draw, think and immerse myself in a subject in which I had a genuine interest.
The class was also respite from physics and organic chemistry!

It is my interest in maps that prompted me to investigate the article
Artistic Cartography by middle school art teacher, Miranda Nelken. In her article, Nelken (2012) explains how she uses topographic maps to connect students with the animals and natural areas in their area. Through a series of activities she describes in her article, Nelken teaches students how to merge animal drawing with geography, cartography and local history. She also introduces students to the work of Stuart Arnett, a Canadian artist who draws animals on topographic maps.

Applying the studio lesson presented in Nelken (2012) to botanical art will be easy to do. Nelken’s directions are very clear. What maybe isn’t so easy at first thought, is associating this lesson to the work of a contemporary botanical artist the way Nelken associates her classroom project with Arnett. Fortunately, I know of an artist who is the perfect match.

Allow me to introduce you to Susan Rubin, a botanical artist in Colorado whose work I have admired for many years. She blends maps with botanical art and I thought of Susan’s work the moment I came across Nelken’s article.

Susan has two cartography series in her portfolio. One series is about spice plants and their origins and the other is about houseplants and their origins. If you haven’t seen Susan’s cartographic images, I encourage you to take a look. They are exciting and make you think about more than just the plant and how you have come to know it.

To view Susan’s cartographic images, go to her online portfolio and click on Spice and Map. While you’re there, be sure to explore the series, Chlorophyll, a collection of colored pencil paintings about leaves.

Artistic Cartography is available online from SchoolArts magazine and can be downloaded for free.

Literature Cited

Nelken, Miranda. 2012. Artistic cartography. SchoolArts. April 2012. Retrieved from http://www.davisart.com/Portal/SchoolArts/articles/4_12_middle-school-studio-art-lesson-plan-artistic-cartography.pdf

Do you blend maps with natural history art?
Introduce us to your work below.

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