Once upon a time, I was an insatiably curious young girl asking my parents ‘why?’ and my desire to understand how things worked spurred me on to study science at school and university. So, when my 6-year-old asked “Mummy, may you teach me how to be a scientist?” my heart nearly burst with pride and a small tear pricked my eye.
Armed with a pencil and a notebook, we’re going to explore the world, do some experiments and record our findings…! I’m blogging about it for The Motherload®, so you can join in with your kids too.
Hurrah! It’s springtime and my garden is looking colourful and full of life. My daughters love our garden because it is a treasure trove of gnomes and ornaments, insect hotels and bee-friendly plants, herbs to pick and solar-powered lights to brighten up the evenings. My favourite thing is watching the plants come into flower. I have a magnolia, a yellowy-pinky rose, a camellia and a crab apple, which all make beautiful flowers.
Flowers come in a variety of shapes and sizes and colours: from daisies to dandelions, from bluebells to snapdragons; from primroses to lilies. But have you ever wondered why plants make flowers?
Let’s do an experiment to find out a bit more about them: All you need is a notebook and pencil, your fingers and a flower. Try to pick a nice big flower*, which will be easier to handle and study. I picked a rose from my garden; I used a pair of sharp scissors and cut it from the plant at the point where its stem joined to the branch.
[*Note: make sure you get permission from the person who owns the garden before you pick any flowers!]
The first thing to notice is that my specimen (the object I’m studying) has a large flower on a stem with a few leaves. The leaves are an important part of a plant because the plant uses them to make food from sunlight, carbon dioxide and water. This is a special chemical reaction that we call photosynthesis. The stem is also important because it carries water and nutrients to the leaves and the flower.
I carefully used my fingers to remove some of the petals so that I could take a closer look at the flower. You’ll notice some thin green bits that look like leaves just underneath the petals: these are called ‘sepals’. Sepals form around a bud to protect it as it grows until it is ready to open out into a flower. The petals of a flower are often brightly coloured and may even have a nice smell. Their job is to attract insects to the flower to help with pollination.
Inside the flower, I found some things that looked like tiny seedlings. These are called ‘stamens’ and are the male part of the reproductive system of a plant. Each stamen has a filament (a stalk bit) with an another (leafy bit) at the top. The anther is made up of pollen sacs that contain pollen.
When I gently pulled out all the stamens, I found the female parts of the plant’s reproductive system. The stigma is used to catch pollen and the ovule turns into a seed after pollination and fertilisation.
To find out more about how plant reproduction works, check out the BBC Bitesize website. I found this diagram which shows how all the parts of a flower fit together.
Why not have a go at drawing and labelling your own flower specimen? Or you can photograph it and label the photos, like I did.
I’m 39 years old, mother of two girls, wife of one bloke and owner of one cat. I like singing, step aerobics, stationery and organising stuff. When I grow up, I’d like to write science books for children. You can follow me on Twitter and have a look on my website
Image credit: Kate Turton