Hundreds of Ovaries

This week we got to dissect flowers!  I’ll admit that I might have had to quickly refresh my memory on plant biology as I haven’t studied plant biology since…well, my K-12 education.  Anyways, the students had to identify several structures (some of which are on the diagram above).  They worked in groups and different groups got different types of flowers.  Helping the students identify these structures was very easy…until some of the groups had questions about flowers that looked like the following:

At first, I thought it was so cool that these students got this type of flower because it would challenge them to think a little more than just identifying a structure from the picture.  But then I’d hear comments like this “hmm, our flower just doesn’t have a pistol or stamen.”  Knowing this flower would not continue to exist without these structures there, I knew they HAD to be there.  But where were they?  This led to a conversation with one set of students:

Me: “You have what looks like a sunflower, right?  Isn’t there some food you’re familiar with that comes from sunflowers?”

Student: “Yeah, sunflower seeds!”

Me: “Where do the seeds come from on that figure?”  She pointed to the ovary on the figure like the one above.  “And how many sunflower seeds are there on a sunflower?”

Student: “Hundreds, are there hundreds of ovaries?  The figure only shows one.”

She was right indeed about the number of ovaries.  I don’t know why, but I just thought this was so cool!  I tried to get the students to dissect the small segments in the middle of the flower because the structures did exist (even though we proved that with common sense), but they were just super small.  Overall, there were good and bad parts to these types of flowers.  I think they were very good for the students to critically think and learn more about the flowers, since it’s very easy to identify structures when they are laid out just like the figure.  I also believe it’s important for them to realize that not everything is going to look like what’s in a figure or textbook (just like not all cells are a circular blob with all of the cell parts labeled for you to see in my area of research).  However, to get the students to begin to comprehend this information took some time and there just weren’t enough adults to cover as many groups as there were in the class.  Not getting enough time to spend with each of these groups, I hope I didn’t just confuse them all.

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About Emily Beck

I am a PhD student in Bioengineering at the University of Kansas and I am studying Tissue Engineering. I am interested in using nanoparticles and natural materials to create scaffolds that can assist in tissue regeneration/repair.
This entry was posted in 2011-2012 GK12, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Hundreds of Ovaries

  1. It is always fun when you help a student figure something out for herself! When I taught biology, I had them use a flower which looked more like their picture for the main dissection, and then had each group look at something different like the sunflower to see how the structure might differ. My favorite thing about plant reproduction, though, was getting to tell them in the spring, “Hey you know that yellow stuff all over your cars this morning? You do know what that was, right? Yes, that was a bunch of sperm!” Freaked them out but they remembered it forever.

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