Developing Ecological Literacy: Teaching Plants in Primary Science

How to promote ecological literacy as you teach Developing Experts' units on plants

Does the role of plants and their importance in the world’s ecosystems often take a backseat in your science curriculum? Whilst the study of animals may be the more exciting or dynamic option for your pupils, recent research suggests that this oversight comes at a cost. As teachers, it’s crucial to recognise the significance of plants, not just in sustaining life, but also in creating ecological literacy and understanding among pupils. With the summer term fully underway, it’s time to delve into the importance of teaching plants in science and explore some issues that you may have encountered when discussing plants in with your pupils. 

  1. Why are plants important? 

Plants are the backbone of our ecosystems, playing a vital role in stabilising ecosystems, providing for other life forms and mitigating the effects of climate change. From producing oxygen and providing habitats for diverse species to regulating temperature and producing food, plants are the foundation of all life on Earth. Whilst your pupils will have come across plants in the context of habitats, adaptations and photosynthesis, they might not yet fully appreciate this link between plants and life. 

  1. Why are plants overlooked? 

Despite their critical role, research has found that plants often receive minimal attention in educational settings. Discourse on climate change tends to overshadow plant-centred discussions, leaving pupils unaware of the importance of plant life on our planet. Additionally, a lack of emphasis on practical skills or difficulty in acquiring resources may also contribute to the neglect of plant education in classrooms. 

  1. Steps to give plants the attention they deserve

A key finding of recent research is that people’s awareness of plants improves when they have ‘frequent interactions with plants that have direct relevance to their lives’. So, if relevancy is the key, then creating experiences for pupils which help them see their own relationship to plants may be an ideal way forward. Some ideas could include: 

This summer, as you teach our units on plants (which can be found in Years 12 and 3), take advantage of this opportunity to nurture ecological literacy. If you complete any plant-related activities or expand on any of the suggestions above, don’t forget to tag us on social media @DevelopExperts!

Reference material available here