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Planting seeds

A group of local junior high school students gained a deeper understanding of photosynthesis earlier this month at the invitation of EEB’s Jeannine Cavender-Bares.

Shan Kothari and plant stomates
Shan Kothari explains to Murray Middle School eighth graders how plant stomates work, showing them how plants to consume carbon and release water and oxygen.

Jeannine Cavender-Bares (Ecology, Evolution and Behavior) invited the students to campus after serving as a judge at the school’s annual science fair. The students participated in activities organized by CBS graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and visiting scientists Keren Bitan, Vinicius Marcilio da Silva, José Alberto Ramírez-Valiente, Matthew Kaproth, Shan Kothari; undergraduates Natalie McMann and Brett Fredericksen; and post-doctoral researcher Matthew Clark (CFANS). Approximately 100 eighth-grade students from nearby Murray Junior High School made their way to the Plant Growth Facility on St. Paul campus March 23-24 to gain first-hand knowledge of how photosynthesis works and why it matters.

Cavender-Bares demonstrating photosynthesis
Jeannine Cavender-Bares demonstrates how photosynthesis, which students learned is the basis for all food and oxygen on Earth, can be measured on plants.

Post-doctoral researcher José Ramírez-Valiente said he was very excited to participate because “showing young minds what scientists do is critical for society and helps inspire the next generation of scientists and citizens.” The students gained a deeper understanding of photosynthesis and its importance for life on Earth through a number of hands-on activities. They used photosynthesis machines to learn how plants create food from air, looked at stomates through a microscope, learned about chlorophyll fluorescence, visited a suite of greenhouse experiments and tasted tropical plants (chocolate, pineapple and vanilla) He hopes to initiate similar activities in his home country of Spain when he returns later this spring.

Kaproth explains wetland experiments
Matt Kaproth explains how wetland experiments on plants can be conducted at the Plant Growth Facility.