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Battle Plants

First and Second Graders Examine the Plant Kingdom Through the Lens of Structures and Functions.

What can we learn from plants? Why is there such a wide variety of plants in the world? Why would some plants have large slippery leaves, while others have small fuzzy leaves? Do these structures have a purpose? First and second graders embarked on a mission to answer these questions with the following essential question, “How are structures and functions related?”

To kick off our theme unit, students collaborated to brainstorm as many plants as they could think of. Plants like raspberry and celery made the list, as well as bamboo, a sycamore tree, Venus flytrap, and the “death bush.” Students worked together to sort plants into categories based on similarities and differences (taxonomy toolkit). They started to observe plant structures such as roots, leaves, and thorns. They learned about the parts of a plant and how water moves through a plant, from its roots, into the xylem, and all the way up to the stomata in its leaves. Students explored these structures by careful observation with our microscope, leaf rubbings, botanical illustration, and field trips to Temescal Gateway Park and the Huntington Gardens.

The class began to collect structures that they had observed in plants and identify what their functions were. Through a number of activities, students noticed that structures serve specific purposes and adapt over time. These structures are essential in the survival of plants. Students described a function as a job for the structure to do, just like a firefighter’s job is to fight fires.

Next, the class watched a botany episode of Life, a BBC documentary series. The few students who originally balked at the idea of studying plants were completely captivated as they watched a sundew plant digest a fly in slow motion. With their interest piqued, students engaged in a number of lessons to identify what a plant needs to survive and what could get in the way, for example; temperature, weather, predators, etc.

Creating Battle Plants

After learning how to play a game called Super Fight, students were introduced to the idea that we would be using this game to inspire our new game, “BATTLE PLANTS!” Our game would be all about super plants that use special structures to battle other plants for survival.

First, the game needed a logo. Students brainstormed what they thought was important when creating a logo. We took these points and created a rubric. Students had a few days to work on their logo designs, before presenting them to their peers. Each student had two minutes to pitch their logo design to the group and convince their peers to vote for their design.


Attractive, catches the eye of the audience: 1 2 3

Use of color or B&W is purposeful and clear: 1 2 3

“BATTLE PLANTS” is clear, easy to read, and in uppercase letters: 1 2 3

Pictures and words are included: 1 2 3

Represents the theme of the game BATTLE PLANTS: 1 2 3

Students rated their classmates’ logos using the rubric we had created. In the end, we had 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place overall winners, but some students who didn’t win a place were still rated the highest by their classmates in one area, such as handwriting or representation of theme. Students received awards for logo design challenge and one student was crowned the winner! She created a final draft of her logo and it became THE LOGO of Battle Plants.

Students then began to create their Battle Plants character cards and structure cards. Each student was responsible for creating five character cards and two or three structure cards. Students made rough drafts and final drafts for each card they created. They received feedback from their teacher and peers and worked hard to make their second draft even better than their first! Some of the feedback students received from peers included:

“Make sure it highlights the structure!”

“Don’t add other things to your picture that could distract from the structure!”

“Zoom in on the structure.”

“Look carefully at real pictures of plants so your structure is accurate and not just from your imagination.”

In the end, students figured out that as a class, they had made a total of 124 cards. That’s a lot of work!

It was then time to have the first play testing of Battle Plants. Other educators visited and learned to play. As the game was play tested, students collaborated to add new rules for the game, such as a time limit for each battle, what to do when there is a tie, and when they think the location card for the battle should be revealed. Evaluating one’s work product and making changes allows for developing critical thinking.

Exhibition was a great success! Students got a chance to teach visitors how to play Battle Plants, and share their knowledge of structures and functions.

In conclusion, the use of structures and functions as a lens to study botany provided students with an understanding of a relationship that is transferable to other subjects. Even after exhibition was over, students continued to look for structures and functions in their daily lives. During their snack and free play, students have debates over which plants would survive . Recently, a student read on the daily schedule that she later in the day would be working on a bridge building challenge. “I bet we are going to talk about the structures and functions of bridges!” she exclaimed.

The biggest change I have noticed in my students is that they now look at nature around them with a newfound appreciation and curiosity. They look just a little bit closer and wonder “why?”


A game for 5 - 7 people.

  • A battle takes place between 2 people.

  • A battle lasts for 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

  • Other players practice good listening skills and allow the players in the battle to make their own choices.

  • Other players are voters and vote for a winner at the end of the battle.

  1. Separate the cards into location cards (blue), character cards (red), and structure cards (yellow).

  2. Decide which 2 players will battle first.

  3. A location card is turned over. This is where the plant battle will take place.

  4. Each of the battling players receive 3 battle plant character cards and 2 structure/ function cards.

  5. Players may keep 1 character card and 1 structure/ function card (these cards will be used in the battle). They must discard the extra cards.

  6. The battle begins and a 2 minute timer is set. Players must argue as to why they think their battle plant character would win the fight.

  7. Players argue back and forth for 2 minutes. When the timer goes off, the battle is over.

  8. Other players in the circle vote for the battle plant they think would win the fight. Voters should think critically about which player made the best argument. Voters who are not playing fair, must go play with a cactus.

  9. The player who wins the fight receives 1 point and stays in the game with the same cards to battle a new opponent.

  10. The game continues until one player has 3, 5, or 7 points. Players must decide as a group which number to play to at the beginning of the game.

In case of a tie:

  • Each player gets 1 extra structure card.

  • Each player gets 30 extra seconds of uninterrupted speaking time.

  • After 1 minute, the other players vote again.

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