Science - Seedy business

25th January 2013 at 00:00
The buzz around the sex life of plants doesn't just come from bees

In the beginning was the word and the word was "sex". The word was soon on everybody's lips, because it had mysteriously appeared on my interactive whiteboard. Somehow I had accidentally dragged a petal away from the giant flower that it was hiding behind.

"Look, Mr Eddison, it says 'sex','" said Nathan, to a chorus of giggling.

"What?" I gasped. I turned around, feigning shock and surprise. "Oh yes, so it does."

"Is that what we are going to be learning about?" asked Nathan.

"I suppose it must be," I told him. "Now, who would like to remove the petals from the rest of the flower for me?" Angelika took the whiteboard pen and dragged away the five remaining petals to reveal that the day's learning activity was "The sex life of flowering plants".

Where the term "sex life" excites, the term "flowering plants" sows seeds of doubt. I had to nip scepticism in the bud before it spread like Japanese knotweed and suffocated the life out of my lesson. "Obviously I must warn you that today's learning will involve studying sex organs," I explained in a serious tone.

Actually, it involved a PowerPoint presentation showing the parts of a flower. The functions of sepals and petals proved easy to understand. Stamens and carpels turned out to be more challenging. "I don't get it," said Nathan. "I mean, if flowers have got penises as well as vaginas does that mean they're gay or bisexual?"

"Flowers don't have penises or vaginas, Nathan, but they do have male and female reproductive parts," I replied. "The stamens produce the pollen and the carpel contains the ovary. To make new seeds, pollen has to be transferred from the stamen to the carpel. Now, does anybody know how that happens?"

Most of the children knew that bees help to carry pollen from flower to flower, but few of them knew what motivates them to do so. It was time for them to learn the sordid truth about pollination. Using my DIY Flowering Plant Resource (if any Dragons happen to be reading this, I am open to offers), I transported them to a seedier place. A landscape where hunger, lust and naked desire are the norm, and where the craving for nectar rules.

My DIY Flowering Plant Resource is a polystyrene bowl, with cotton buds dipped in talcum powder attached to the inside of the rim. Stuck around the outside of the rim are brightly coloured petals made from card. The whole thing is attached to the end of a cardboard tube that has been painted green and has paper leaves stuck to it. My nectar substitute - otherwise known as a fruit pastille - was placed inside the bowl and we were ready to begin.

There was a definite buzz in the air as an entire swarm of volunteer bees prepared to plunge headfirst into the sex life of flowering plants.

Steve Eddison is a KS2 teacher at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield

What else?

Find out about Jasper's Beanstalk with boaqueen's cross-curricular worksheet. Topics include plants, growth and stories. bit.lytesPlantStories

Visualise the life cycle of a plant with R Dally's illustrated PowerPoint presentation.


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