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Weeds As Teachers





Walking through an elementary school I found the following quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson framed and hanging in the school hall “A weed is a plant whose virtue has not yet been discovered”. This means that of all the tools, foods, medicines and fibers that have been discovered from the world of plants called weeds, there are still new plants and new uses of the plants to discover.

The student pictured above has samples of two weeds pulled from the school garden that were plants used historically as a flavoring, a spice and an edible food. The middle plant is commonly known as Henbit and is categorized in the Mint family; it is edible and has been used medicinally to relieve digestive imbalances. The plant on the right is commonly referred to as Shepard’s Purse and is classified in the Mustard family; it has been used to flavor foods with its piquant taste and is used medicinally to stop bleeding. Look here for the best read on uses for weeds in Texas and the Southwest.

The population increase or decrease of particular plants in the fields and forests can tell scientists, researchers and farmers if the land has been overgrazed or is lacking nutrients, giving the investigator a window into the health of the soil and plant communities of an area. Weeds can be used for teaching students about adaptations, competition, cycles and seasons, food webs and enumerable other scientific information.

Several years ago a first grade class being taught in the outdoor laboratory/garden was given an assignment to use their five senses and write a sentence describing their best sensory experience of exploring plants – the following was a favorite “I lick yummy plants”; it is predicted that this student will be an ethnobotanist, one who studies the relationship between people and plants.

Look here for pictures and information about weeds.

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