Last week I planted out some broad bean plants. They were getting too big for their pots and really needed to be moved to their permanent home.
They had strong roots which had grown beyond the pot in search of …… Well, what were they in search of? We might say that they were in search of nutrition, or even food, but is that true? Sure, as well as using their roots to draw up water plants take up vital minerals and micronutrients through their roots. However, we know that a plant’s main source of nutrition is sunlight; they make their own food. Nevertheless, for the last few weeks I have been adding a liquid fertiliser every so often as I watered them to keep them healthy until they were planted out. When I did this I would talk about ‘feeding’ them, or used the term ‘liquid feed’. In fact, although the plants would have developed yellow leaves and grown more slowly if I had not ‘fed’ them this would have been due to the lack of micronutrients rather than food, just as we would become ill if we did not have enough of the right sort of vitamins even if we had enough food overall.
When I am working with children I am aware that they frequently have a misconception that plants get food through their roots, and realise that the language that I (and others) use does nothing to help them learn that plants are ‘primary producers’ as they do not need to rely on another living thing as a food source in the way that animals and fungi do. I try and choose my words carefully, but no doubt from time to time children will hear me talking about feeding my plants! As educators I think that we need to be aware that the way we use language can make it harder for children to learn what they need to know.
In other news, as I promised I would three weeks ago, I have finally got around to drawing a name from a hat (March has been an incredibly hectic month). Tracy you are the lucky winner of The Stick Book and I will be in touch with you to arrange giving you your prize.