Founded in 1994 by The Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach, Pan’s Garden is a unique botanical garden consisting of over 300 native Florida plant species. Since its inception the garden has been home to numerous interdisciplinary educational programs designed to provide students with a glimpse into the wonders of plants and the importance of preserving the world’s natural resources.
Florida’s Plants & Native Americans: An educational program entitled “Florida’s Plants and the Native Americans” has been developed for grades K-8. It focuses on the relationship between Florida’s Native American tribes and the indigenous plant species that supported their lifestyle.
Monarchs & Milkweed: An educational unit called “Monarchs and Milkweed” is designed to support and enhance the kindergarten to 8th grade science curriculum taught in Palm Beach County Schools.
Transpiration: Another educational unit entitled “Let’s See What Transpires” is offered to support and enhance the 3rd to 8th grade science curriculum in Palm Beach County Schools.
Florida’s Plants & Native Americans
The Florida’s Plants and Native Americans program focuses on the relationship between Florida’s Native American tribes and the indigenous plant species that supported their lifestyle. This combination of historical and biological education is known as ethnobotany. Not only does the program provide students with a strong background in their state’s pre-American history, it also challenges them to consider the importance of environmental preservation and conservation.
The educational program begins with a brief history of Florida’s Native tribes, who prospered in areas considered uninhabitable by today’s standards. Students learn that the arrival of the European explorers forced Florida’s Natives to leave areas they had inhabited for thousands of years. Many plants utilized during the era of Spanish exploration are found in Pan’s Garden and are still used as sources of food, medicine, clothing, transportation and shelter.
Students then embark on an interactive tour of the Garden. This tour serves to introduce them to, and assist them in, the identification of individual plant species studied previously in the classroom. The Native American tradition of utilizing the entire plant, and conserving plant species, is also presented during this time.
The employment of hands-on exploration serves to reinforce knowledge acquired from the discussion period and the Garden tour. These hands-on activities are incorporated into a fun, but very purposeful, Survival Game. Students are divided into groups and become a Native Florida 'tribe,' each identifiable by its unique face paint. The 'tribes' rotate through different activity stations where they locate and identify plants used for food, medicine, clothing and other supplies. 'Tribes' also brainstorm uses for specific parts of plant materials in a game called “Collections”; and later make wooden game pieces which they use to play “The Stick Game”.
The culmination of the Florida’s Plants and the Native Americans program is a brief discussion to reiterate and summarize ethnobotanical concepts, which acts as a sort of “post-test” to further help solidify student’s newly acquired information. Frequently students are amazed to discover that many plants once utilized by the Native Americans are enjoying a “rediscovery” for modern uses in today’s world.
The Florida’s Plants and the Native Americans experience fortifies the understanding of ethnobotany - the study of the relationship between plants and humans and raises awareness about the importance of preservation and conservation of our history, the environment, and our people.
Monarchs & Milkweed
The Monarchs and Milkweed program raises students’ awareness of critical environmental issues such as consequences of air pollution and loss of habitat on plants and animals, how biomonitoring can detect serious environmental problems, the cause and effect of interdependence between species and protection of threatened and endangered species. Monarch butterflies, milkweed plants and hands-on experiments are employed to demonstrate these important issues.
Monarch butterflies are fascinating and fun to watch. Students learn and observe the various butterfly stages of development in the Garden and how unique adaptations assist in their survival. Milkweed, the host plant of Monarch butterflies, is utilized as a biomonitor: an important indicator of air pollution. A specific form of air pollution known as ozone, visibly damages the Milkweed plant=s leaves. Students discover the connection between damaged milkweed and the consequences for the butterflies by defining ozone, making observations and recording scientific data in an attempt to discover the presence of ozone and damage to milkweed leaves.
After the biomonitoring experiment, a discussion ensues regarding loss of habitat, followed by an introduction to unique adaptations that butterflies possess in all stages of their life cycle that assist in survival. Later, role-playing in two different games designed to demonstrate adaptations and all of the hazards that can befall butterflies, reinforces students’ understanding of the plight of the Monarch butterfly.
A summary discussion assists students draw conclusions about how they might help both Monarch butterflies and Milkweed plants in their struggle for survival. Interacting with beautiful butterflies while learning important environmental issues is an event students won=t soon forget.
The Let’s See What Transpires curriculum focuses on plant transpiration, its important function as part of the water cycle and discusses important related issues such as adaptations plants possess that conserve water and how the use of native plants in the landscape helps in the preservation of our drinking water supply. Students use hands-on experiments that require observation and record-keeping to draw conclusions based on their data. Physical science experiments are included to demonstrate the transpiration process. A solid understanding of the water cycle and basic plant anatomy is necessary for students to realize the full benefit from this unit.
The program begins with students working in cooperative groups in Pan’s Garden, placing plastic bags around a leaf or leaves of specific plants. During the bagging process, scientific measurements and observations are noted and recorded to reinforce the importance of utilizing the Scientific Method. Because the results of the experiment take some time to become apparent, students gather in the gazebo for a quick review and discussion of the water cycle, scientific method and plant anatomy. Then the process of plant transpiration is introduced and explored.
Physical science experiments depicting adhesion, cohesion and capillary action are employed to assist students’ understanding in these processes that make up transpiration. Once that knowledge is gained, a discussion regarding different plant adaptations and how they affect the transpiration rate follows. Environmental concerns such as water conservation and pollution also enter the discussion and how they are relevant to the transpiration process.
The program culminates with students revisiting their original experiment- the bagged plant- to determine whether or not evidence of transpiration is observable inside the plastic bag. Data collected previously is then presented by each group, along with their original hypothesis and brief explanation of adaptations of their individual plant that may affect its transpiration rate. After each bagged plant is visited, students return to the gazebo for a summary of the concepts explored and a question and answer period.
The Let’s See What Transpires experience sheds new light on the important part of the water cycle, plant transpiration; and its relevance to water issues that are challenging and changing the ways we utilize our water supply.