The History of High School Botany Education in America

Margaret Conover, a botanist from SUNY Stony Brook, has written an interesting overview of how botany has been taught in American high schools from 1800 to the present.  She states that just over 100 years ago nearly all high-school students studied botany for a full year and emphasis was placed on identifying local flora.

Later, the “Golden Age of Botany Teaching” and the nature study movement of the early 1900s had students studying all aspects of plants in nature. The state Board of Regents even had a botany exam (which you can take yourself on page 4 of her article).What happened to this emphasis on botany in high schools? Read her article and you will find out why it is so different today.  Why a student who omits the answer to every plant related question on the Living Environments Regents Exam could still receive a passing grade of 80% and what the forces are that have led to the decline of botany as a subject in high school.

She ends with a note of hope that people are working to cure the “plant blindness” that pervades high-school biology education. To read the full article from the Long Island Botanical Society newsletter CLICK HERE.

Marielle Anzelone teaches high schoolers about plants in the Bronx. Photo Drosera.com

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