Substantive work is on the way. On the 29th of November 2018, teachers and project team members from Estonia met in University of Tartu Botanical Gardens. As Hob’s adventure gravitates around potted plants, gardener Kristine Fenske gave a tour of the gardens, showing different tropical plants that could be grown in classrooms and used as teaching materials.
Not all plants are suitable to be grown in classrooms and near children. Kristine first showed plants that ought not to be used in classrooms. These include poisonous plants such as euphorbias such as poinsettias (popular around christmas time), dieffenbachia and clivia. The latter are phototoxic, i.e., their juice together with sunlight causes burns on human skin.
Some plants just grow too large to be suitable for classrooms. These include palm trees, Monstera. And other plants have large thorns that could be dangerous, these include cactai. Curiously, she was more worried about cactai with small, difficult to notice thorns, as these often become airborne or stuck in skin, causing infections and irritations. And some plants merely spread a large quantity of spores which might irritate people with allergies or just cause trouble for cleaners. These include some popular ferns.
She recommended several species suitable as potted plants in classrooms. One of the more interesting suggestions was water moss, or Salvinia which grows in water. These can be planted in aquariums in such a way that children can observe all parts of the plant, including its roots that would be hidden away with a standard potted plant. Another suitable species, water lettuce or Pistia, can be problematic weeds in tropical climates, causing bodies of water to fill up, which allows teachers to explain interesting environmental issues.
She recommended trying to grow pineapples and avocadoes. Both can be first consumed and then planted. This link shows how one can take a store-bought pineapple, plant a leaf and expect it to grow in a classroom setting. Similarly, an avocado seed can be planted as a potted plant.
Kristine recommended that each class would draw up a schedule for watering and fertilizing plants by species. Each plant requires a slightly different watering and fertilization schedule, and overwatering or underwatering can be lethal to a plant. Children might want to share the duty of watering the plant properly.
The next meeting will take place in January, and we’re looking forward to the transnational meeting in Sigulda in February.