Summer School – Day 10 – Plants and Invertebrates

I know I keep saying this, but THIS IS ANOTHER OF MY FAVORITE DAYS OF THE SEMESTER! Today was pretty much fun from start to finish. In the morning, lecture on the diversity of plants, including the various adaptations that allowed plants to make the transition from the ocean onto land. After the lecture, I’d arranged for us to have a tour of the Tropical Greenhouse on campus. The greenhouse is across campus from the science building, so along the way I gave them a little walking tour of some of my favorite plants on campus, including a few Ginkgo trees, a Cycad (my all time fave), several ferns, redwood trees, and the Butterfly Garden. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures along the campus tour, but I have loads of pics from our greenhouse tour! We were welcomed to the greenhouse by Kandis, who provides instructional support for the Biology Department, and she is an exceptionally gracious hostess!

To be honest, for most of my time at SSU, I didn’t know we had a tropical greenhouse. It was only when I was teaching this class last summer that I found out about it, but now I want to bring as many students here as possible. It’s not all that big, but there are so many GORGEOUS plants!

While we were there, I asked everyone to draw at least one of the plants in their field notebooks, and that occupied much of their time, but we also had time to wander around and talk about the different types of plants we were seeing.

All four main groups of plants were represented here: Bryophytes (including mosses), seedless vascular plants (including ferns), gymnosperms (evergreens), and angiosperms (flowering plants). Mostly ferns and angiosperms. Here are some highlights:

Here are a few student drawings:

Kandis did a couple of particularly cool things while we were there . . . first, she cut off a branch of the rubber tree, so we could see the sap ooze from the plant (and yes, that’s really rubber)! I remember having a rubber tree in the backyard of the house where I grew up, but I don’t think I knew sap would come out like that. (Probably a good thing for the tree; if I’d known, I’d have been cutting off branches all the time).

Kandis also gave everyone a cutting off of a spider plant that needed to be trimmed back anyway. So, we all ended up with adorable little spider plant babies to take home with us, perfect examples of asexual reproduction! (The big plant pictured below is the parent).

Everyone had a fantastic time investigating plants on campus, and then it was time for lunch. When we got back, it was time to move on to the next topic: ANIMALS! In particular, invertebrates – animals that don’t have backbones. I’d set up the classroom as a rotation lab, with a whole bunch of stations: Sponges, Cnidarians, Molluscs and Annelids, Crustaceans, Horseshoe Crab, Arachnids and Insects (including some live specimens; we took a mini-field trip upstairs to view the tarantula and stick insects in one of the 1st floor displays), and Echinoderms. I’m honestly not sure which part of today they liked better – plants, or animals. As far as I’m concerned, they’re all super cool!

Sponges, Mulloscs, and Annelids:


Here’s a cool video I took of a snail scraping algae off the side of the tank with a specialized structure called a radula:


Arthropods, including Crustaceans, and Insects:

Echinoderms (these might be my favorite. Their tube feet are SO CUTE):

Such a fantastic day! And we’ve got more fun in store tomorrow, when we talk about VERTEBRATES!

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