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identification key to flowering plants, trees, winter twigs. a picture identification guide is also useful. jewelers loupe type lens, tweezers, dissecting needle, plant press, notebook, pen and pencil.
the first step in this endeavor is to learn to see in detail, and learn to use the keys, learn the technique, learn to master the terms for the different features of plants. the best way to do this is to go out with someone and have 'em teach you first hand about 50 different plants that are easy for you to recognize. once you got these down THEN try to key THEM out with the keys, to learn how the keys work and get used to taking the flowers apart and use the hand lens. if you get lost in the key you can always look ahead to the plant you know it is and work through the key backwards.
use the key in conjunction with the picture book too.
discussion: try to key out a few species in the same genus if you can find them. grasses, asters, cinquefoils, goldenrods are good tricky ones to try.
one thing you learn from this experience is just HOW MUCH detail there is in each critter available to use in telling them apart.
Alternates for science center or museum:
1) can't go out and collect ants or plants or insects so will have to have some kind of... could have a table of 100 laminated leaves and you get to mess around and see if they all look different! can you really tell? can you see enough detail if you use a hand lens? through the lamination? can you really tell the diff between a few different grass blades? under 30times you can see the cell surfaces, rows of stomates.. really? pressed like that? got to be dried/pressed THEN laminated. under sanitary conditions? but the point of this exercise is too see the levels of detail, the trichomes, the cell patterns, stomate patterns... can you see that through lamination?
2) certainly have rows and rows of 1000s of insects. in individual cases so you can pick em up and see in detail the hairs and subtle... i mean to key out the ant genera i had to look at subtle details, shapes.
how does one take the time to do this at a science center?
how does one get the cumulative impact of all these lessons by randomly walking around a science center for an unpredictable amount of time? well, one of my dreams was to have a science center where kids would come back to time and time again over course of weeks after school and slowly put together story. bar, YOUR SIMPLIFIED version of 4 workshops was 4 periods of 6 weeks. that's like 48 one hour meetings. no one is going to spend THAT much time at a science center! complexity lab sums up A LIFETIME OF YOUR STUDY. how can you compact that into a few science center experiences?
ok, i'm not being realistic!
so at a science center what if different kids see their own mix of a FEW of the complexity lab things? would that still be of value?
come on make a list of labs that can be perused quickly at a science center:
1) for sure i can make a display of 30X30 insects=1000 that obviously look different
2) then two different insects under 30 power or whatever to see detail
3) then slide of complexity of surface of plant leaf...
4) can still have table of leaves and keys lying about and the kids can try there hand at keying out a few leaves...