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The Naples Botanical Garden is proud to announce the winner of the first-ever “Budding Botanists” essay contest. The contest, open to 4th graders who participated in the Collier County Public Schools’ “Budding Botanists” field trip program at the Garden, asked students to write a story about waking up one day to a world without plants. The winning essay by Alyssa Kessel, formerly of Ms. Baumgardner’s class at Calusa Park Elementary and now currently in Ms. Witten’s class at Big Cypress Elementary, uses vivid language and imaginative dialogue to convey the dire situation that a plant-less world would present.
For her stellar entry, Alyssa won a Family Membership to the Naples Botanical Garden, presented to her at school on Wednesday, February 15, 2012.
The “Budding Botanists” program, offered for the first time in Fall 2011, was created by District and Garden staff. Not just an ordinary field trip, the “Budding Botanists” program includes a day of training for teachers, in-class lessons tied to 4th grade state benchmarks about plant science, and a field trip experience for students to the Garden. At the Garden, students partook in a flower dissection lab, a seed carrier investigation, pollinator observation, and native plant identification. Close to 600 students participated in the program this fall, and the Garden is eager to offer the program to even more 4th graders next school year.
Britt Patterson-Weber, the Naples Botanical Garden’s Children’s Garden Coordinator and program developer, is excited to have this hands-on learning opportunity in the Garden. “It is so cool to see such young students actually put scientific observation into practice. They are stunned by discoveries like the details they can see under the microscopes and their eye for detail is amazing! Out in the garden the kids found things I had never even seen before.”
Allowing children time to investigate the living world at close range gives children the chance to make interesting connections and encourages questions about science and nature. For example, after studying the butterflies one group found caterpillars eating beans in the vegetable garden. After seeing the leaf damage from the butterflies, the students began to discuss whether butterflies and caterpillars were ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This experience introduced the concept of checks and balances in nature.