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Monday Morning Ready09.25.2015
Jumpstart Your Week!

David Hepworth and Eric Whale are two Scottish material scientists. They were looking for smart ways to reuse food waste when they figured out how to make nanofibers out of carrot pulp. It is the leftovers from carrot juice. The cellulose in carrots and other root vegetables, unlike other fibrous materials like wood or cotton, is easy to separate out from the rest of the biowaste. They extract it from the pulp.... < read more >
Grade 3-4

Would you feel safe wearing a helmet made out of carrot fibers? Why or why not?

Grade 5-6

What advantages can you see in creating more plant-based products? Do you think there could be any disadvantages? If so, what are they?

Grade 7-8

Do you think it's important for scientists to find new ways to create products that have traditionally been made from carbon? Why?

Grade 9-10

According to the article, the scientists are searching for ways to use biowaste that are ecologically responsible, sustainable and economically sound. Which of these requirements do you think is the most important? Why?

Design a Plant-Based Product


  1. Brainstorm with students to identify products that they currently use or wear that come from plants. Challenge the class to identify traits of plants that make them good for different purposes.
  2. Inform the class that when scientists study the traits of plants they search for ways to mimic how plants respond to nature. For example, in 1948 a man took his dog for a walk. Both he and the dog came home covered in burrs. He studied the burrs to find out how and why they stuck to his pants. Then he invented Velcro®. 
  3. Instruct students to select a plant and investigate its traits. Tell students to design a product that utilizes one of the plant's traits in a meaningful way. 
  4. Give students time to sketch a model of their designs. Encourage them to write a brief description identifying the plant-based features in their product. Challenge them to explain how each feature works.


Invite students to share their models and descriptions. Encourage classmates to discuss the usefulness of each design.


Grades 3-4:
Conduct the activity as a class. Identify one plant and discuss its traits. Encourage students to examine how specific traits help the plant survive. Then brainstorm ways those same traits could also be useful to people. Encourage each student to draw a model and write a description of his or her own product. Have students share their work in small groups.

Grades 5-6:
Divide the class into small groups. Encourage each group to select a plant, investigate its traits and identify one characteristic to use in a product. Encourage group members to work together to draw a model and write a brief description of the product.

Grades 7-8:
Assign each student a partner. Encourage pairs to select a plant, investigate its traits and select one characteristic to use in a product. Challenge pairs to create a detailed drawing of their model. Instruct them to also write a detailed description explaining how the product is like the plant and how it is useful to people. 

Grades 9-10:
Brainstorm with students to identify categories of products they use. If necessary, offer suggestions such as sports equipment, school supplies, clothing, transportation or electronics. As a class, choose two categories. Then assign each student a partner. Encourage pairs to select a plant, investigate its traits and identify one useful characteristic. Instruct pairs to design a product for each category that incorporates that trait. Have students create detailed drawings of their models and write a description of each. Challenge them to identify additional industries that could use products similar to those they designed.

Lifesnap, A New Mobile App That Identifies Plants By Leaf Shape
This article from Smithsonian Science news introduces the new app, Lifesnap. It is the world’s first plant identification mobile app that uses visual search.

Agriculture in Your Life
In this lesson, students will practice word manipulation while categorizing sources of basic agricultural products. Extensions to the lesson will provide additional opportunities for students to make real connections to agriculture.

Lemelson Center For the Study of Inventon and Innovation
The Smithonian's home for invention and innovation. The site explores invention and innovation through stories, research and various activities.

Botanical Type Specimen Register
This is a searchable database that contains images and data with 1.2 million specimen records currently available in the online catalog.

A Walk in the Forest
In this interactive animation, students will use scientific tools and methodologies to determine the forest makeup, monitor health and conserve biodiversity in a fictional Virginia forest.