STEM facilitator Meghan Bagley reflects on the first month of the fall Science Giants, at Al Raby High School. 

The first month of Science Giants at Al Raby High School has been full of new experiences, as we have begun exploring the Garfield Park Conservatory. To conduct research on the conservatory, we traveled to the Harold Washington Library in the Loop, where we learned many new surprising things about plants, such as: flowers turn into fruits; a banana tree is not a tree it is actually a large herbaceous plant’ and an avocado is a berry, while a strawberry is not!

The students’ favorite class so far was our fruit exploration day. While learning about the background and anatomy of different types of fruit from all over the world, we were also able to taste test them. The class’s favorites were plums and apples. The students were amazed to find out there are over 7,500 different cultivars of apples in the world.

The more exotic fruits were received with varying levels of enthusiasm. Half of the students loved the pomegranate and the other half tried one bite and threw the rest in the trash. The starfruit was almost unanimously the least favorite. “It looks so pretty but tastes like nothing,” one student said. Another student said that the prickly pear “tastes like it wants to be a watermelon, but it can’t be.” We were able to try fruits from Iraq, China, Brazil, and America from the comfort of our classroom.

This class period allowed us learn a lot about where different fruits originated and discuss how humans have manipulated plants so that we can use them for food and other products like clothes, shelter, and furniture. Science Giants is allowing the students to branch out with their thoughts of what plants are, and what they do. They are learning more about plants almost every day through group projects and presentations. This is helping them become more confident in themselves and developing their public speaking skills in a smaller, more relaxed group of their peers. My hope is that by the end of the year the students will be able to take their experiences in Science Giants and apply them through all their years of first and secondary education, and eventually the workforce.

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