Natural Curiosity

By Eve Pranis

Like your students, scientists are always asking questions. These questions often spark investigations to look for answers. Many of the scientists who have studied plants asked questions not so different from those of your students. Consider having students research how different plant scientists went about asking and answering their own questions. Some of the more well known plant scientists, and one each of their questions, are listed below.

Jean Baptiste Helmont: "Does the weight a plant gains as it grows come from its eating the soil?"

Steven Hales: "How does water move through plants, and where does it go?"

Joseph Priestley: "Do plants breathe and 'damage' air like animals do?"

Carl Linnaeus: "Can plants be classified and given a simple two-word name that will show how they're related to other plants?"

Charles Darwin: "How do plants move -- both individual plants (tropisms) and seeds that will make new plants (seed dispersal)?"

Rachel Carson: "Are there ways of controlling pests that are less harmful to our environment than the chemicals we use now?"

John Burroughs: "What can we learn from simply observing trees, flowers, insects and birds?"

Luther Burbank: "Are all plants of a particular kind really exactly alike? If not, can I cross two that I like to get one that is even better?"

George Washington Carver: "How many different products can we make from peanuts and soybeans?"

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