Ever since our tour of the conservatory the students have been most excited to study the desert house. It is dry, surprisingly cool, and there is a soothing feeling about the room. The music that is playing was made from a man plucking thorns and creating music out of it. And there are so many different types of succulents that look almost otherworldly. So it’s safe to say the excitement was palpable when we spent our first full lesson in the desert house. Week before spring break the students picked five of their favorite plants, one of Joanne’s picks was the Giant Saguaro “because it is so tall, and they grow for so long!” They each research and shared with the class their five favorites, after that they each picked one of their favorites to create a desert biome box for.
Ahleeah created the perfect environment for her Elephant Tree, including sand, tumbleweeds, and cacti made of clothespins and paper. Desiree painstakingly rolled out the leaves for the Cluster Agave, and formed them to look almost identical to the real Cluster Agave at the conservatory. And Shenise made a family of Desert Foxes to put in next to her Century Plant. Throughout the few days working on the boxes, we learned about all the factors that go into a biome. There are the big plants and animals that we see, but there are also microbes who share the environment who keep everything balanced, the rain and sun also play a role in the environment. “If any of the factors gets messed up, everything else in that environment would be affected,” said Ahleeah. We discussed how even in the desert, water is maybe the most important factor. Plants and animals wait all year for the rainy season, and then have tons of adaptations to help survive until the next rainy season. “The desert room is my favorite because it is completely different from Chicago,” said Theon.
The week we spent learning about the desert house, and working on our desert biome boxes sparked some great discussions about adaptations and ecology. We even learned that a camel’s humps don’t store water, they actually store fat!