On a chilly winter day, a group of 24 introductory biology students warmed up in the campus greenhouse during an extensive introduction to plant diversity, one of 20 sections of students to participate in such a tour. While a greenhouse tour has long been part of the laboratory curriculum, this spring semester marks the launch of a revamped plant biodiversity module, a joint effort between Samara Gray, the greenhouse coordinator, and instructional laboratory coordinators Linda Robinson and Karl Siegert.
“I thought this would be a good way to get these students, the majority of which are pre-meds, interested in plants,” says Robinson. “As part of the lab we’ve had students dissect things like lilies, mosses, and pinecones, but in the greenhouse they get to see a much larger diversity.”
The hour-long tour and an accompanying written assignment, which students complete in the greenhouse, entails encounters with plants including a banana plant, a 150-year old cycad, and a Venus fly-trap. There are also more mundane species like peppers and tomatoes, associated with educational or research projects undertaken by students and faculty in the biology department.
The goal is to give students a more thorough and engaging introduction to plant biology and diversity.
“I’ve been working to get students more interested in the greenhouse, and this was a great way to do it,” says Gray. “We’ve already had one student ask to volunteer here from the tour. Once students find out about the greenhouse, they want to be here more.”
“The students love it here,” adds Robinson.