Urban areas (cities) are densely populated with industry, factories, and concrete while rural and suburban areas are more full of green space, and have fewer factories and busy streets, increasing air quality. This DIY activity will give you a little bit of knowledge on the plants that could be in the green spaces in your urban area and will help get closer to answering the questions of why urban areas have the amount of green space that they have and what can be done about it.
Age Range: 4th-12th grade.
First watch both videos on urban green space. After watching the videos, follow the guide and try to identify some plants in your area around your house or on your street maintaining social distancing guidelines (stay 6 feet away from anybody who does not live with you) and wearing proper protective equipment. After trying to identify some plants in your area, take a mental note on how you feel and then try to answer the reflection questions.
PPE for plant guide
Internet Access for videos
https://youtu.be/WMUZeqM-Olg (effects of urban green space on well being)
https://youtu.be/CEoOFa-Ip6w (benefits of urban green space)
This is a plant guide designed to help you successfully identify a few plants that are within your environment and hopefully after finding some of these plants or, even just looking for them, you feel better.
Forsythia is a bush that only flowers for 2 to 3 weeks in the early spring. It’s a very showy bush during its flowering stage, with bright yellow flowers that can be used to both put a smile on someone’s face and to make a yellow dye or paint. We are looking for Forsythia now, as it's easiest to find because not many other yellow plants are blooming this early. Just look for the four pointed yellow star flowers on a bush. During most of the year this plant is green and looks like a typical bush so many people trim them but sometimes they are found wild and untrimmed. Here’s some pictures to help you along your search. Both trimmed and untrimmed. Be on the lookout for a DIY about dyeing with plants.
Magnolias are also very pretty. We have a limited time to see them in Michigan, especially because the flowers bloom before the leaves come out. It allows them to be very showy, often flashing a bright beautiful set of pink to white flowers. However this leaves them very fragile and not very resilient to wind and heavy rains. People often say a magnolia tree in Michigan is a testament of true faith in the spring being here to stay. Lookout for a tree that is fairly thin and has a smooth-ish bark to it. Many times this tree does not have really deep roots and you can sometimes see the root structure on the soil or even on top of the soil. Before the buds open up they are usually fairly large and “fuzzy” or “hairy” like a peach. After the buds open up you should see big beautiful flowers all over the tree. Here’s some pictures to help you along your search.
Muscari or as they are commonly called, Grape Hyacinths, are the cutest little things; they are one of my favorites because they smell so good and are also really easy to identify (and soft, so very soft). Look for spikes of dense, most commonly blue, urn-shaped flowers resembling bunches of grapes. Although the common name is Grape hyacinth do not confuse them with true hyacinths (a different genus of plants in the same family). The blooms last for about 3 weeks and this plant always blooms in April or May. Here’s some pictures to help you along your search.
How many of the plants from the DIY activity were you able to identify?
Why do you think urban areas have more factories?
What type of people typically live near factories? Why do you think that is?
Do you think that the people living in urban areas are aware of the plants they have around them? Why or why not?
What do you think people could do to enhance the greenspace that they have access to in the city?
Who or what else benefits from green space in urban areas?
How do you feel after trying to identify plants in your neighborhood?
Did you see any plants that caught your eye but didn’t know what they were?
Do you feel like you have to go far outside of your community to experience “nature”?