Tuesday, January 4, 2011

See Roots in their Natural Habitat

Dearest soil enthusiasts,

¡Feliz año nuevo!  ¿Cómo fue su celebración?

To celebrate my new science teaching jobs that I mentioned on Twitter, I'm looking around for fun soil science ideas that address our Texas HS Science learning objectives, TEKS.  I found instructions for making a root viewing box where you can make lots of fun experiments.   I hope I can muster up the motor skills to make one.  Hammer, please avoid my fingers.  Thank you.  I found instructions here (horizontally oriented) and here (vertically oriented).  Mickey over at My Wisconsin Garden made a pretty one with cedar with some nice germination results.
Vertically oriented root viewing box by the NRCS
Of course, we can use root viewing boxes to learn about tropism*, like
  • positive geotropism (grow towards the source of gravity), and 
  • negative light tropism (grow away form the source of light), and 
  • negative thigmatropism (growing away from obstacles touching them)  (activity details for all here)
You could
  • see how the roots respond to different soil textures (sand, silt, and clay), and
  • varying soil moisture at depth (water it for longer or shorter time periods)
You could
  • compare the root lengths of different plants, like native Texan prairie grass to conventional lawn grasses, and then 
  • think about what that means for facilitating erosion (Native is better! But find out for yourself).  
You could
  • do so many things!  Heh, you though you were getting more, eh?
Also, the Capital Area Master Naturalist's Education and Outreach Committee has a learning activity on root length, and you can ask them to present it to your group.  Any age.
    If I make this you'll soooo get pictures, hopefully in a classroom setting, administration-willing.


    Tropism: A response to stimuli by plants is called a tropism (source).

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