Monday, August 4, 2008

Experiment Ideas: Plant Pigments Link (USA to Japan to USA again...)

An excellent way to learn science is by being a scientist as you learn. That means participating in the process of science. People are moving away from the idea of "scientific method" because (to some) the idea didn't convey well enough that the method consists of several processes and that these processes are exciting. Whatever skills you have, the process of science can use, music, attention to detail, observation, writing, perseverance, ...many, many skills lead to well done science. The idea is to try some experiments. Plant pigments provide an opportunity for such investigation.

I clicked on the link in the left hand column for the Japanese-based Society for Practical Education in Biology (, which you can find on this blog, and landed here: back in the USA at Berkeley. That activity is what led to this exercise in the study of plant pigments. The internet can be an aid to your research, but, you still need to think deeply about what you find. For example, the Berkeley site gives a lot of information and is a great starting place. Let's see what you can do to become a self-directed learner from there. Pick out ways of learning that support your developing an interest in your studies. As you learn, step up to higher order thinking, which will keep you motivated and interested. Use
your talents. For example, if you are a theater buff, use the plant pigments to suggest colorful costumes, or, create a play about plant pigments. A math whiz? What do wave lengths of light have to do with the pigments. Maybe you just love science labs. How could you extract the plant pigments? Could you use them for another chemical process? Art? Help convey the results you get in a beautiful way. Let's get started.

Take a look at the information on
plant pigments and see what questions come to mind. What experiments does it make you think about? Post a comment if you have any questions.

Much of the information is
definitions. Can you describe the words? Do you recall them when you close your eyes? Could you label chemical structures of the pigments with the right name? Great. These are Knowledge-based skills...Skills of remembering. You might also gather information you didn't know before:
The development of the most brilliant red coloring of
autumn is commonly ascribed to the action of frost.
This explanation is probably incorrect, for careful
observation indicates that the color is most intense
when a moderately low temperature is accompanied by
bright sunshine. In warm, cloudy autumns the colors
are more likely to be dull, with the yellows predominant.
In other seasons, when cold weather is delayed, autumn
coloration may be brilliant and near its climax before
the first frost occurs. That sunlight is important in
the development of the red pigment in many plants may
be shown also by an examination of a leaf that has been
closely shaded by another. The pigment stops so abruptly
where the shade begins that a perfect print of the upper-
most leaf results. An abundance of nitrogen in the soil
prevents anthocyan[an] formation in some plants. This
fact may explain in part the greater brilliancy of colors
seen on hillsides and river bluffs than on adjoining
Edited by John W. Ritchie
Accessed 10-29-08 See also:
Can you paraphrase the definitions? (The word paraphrase means to say, or write the information in your own words.) Paraphrasing shows comprehension or understanding. Other skills that show comprehension or understanding include: matching, giving examples, interpreting, summarizing, classifying, illustrating and explaining. Inferring, rewriting, and distinguishing are other ways of thinking about plant pigments that show comprehension. Can you organize information that you read so you can remember it?

Application (Applying) is another step up the thinking skills ladder. If you are using the HOT Skills Wheel TM, you can see that you've moved to another section. When you can apply the knowledge that you've learned, you can dramatize it, use it, solve with it, and, produce with it, for example.

Analysis is another form of higher order thinking that you can apply to your study of plant pigments. Compare, analyze, distinguish, infer, analyze, classify, differentiate, point out, subdivide, survey. Think more deeply! What can you infer from the colors of leaves and fruits? Can you differentiate among different plant pigments? How? (Add your own questions and responses. Keep track in your lab book or journal.).

Synthesis, or "creating" includes verbs like: compose, design, produce, organize, originate, combine, plan, hypothesize, role play, create, develop, construct, invent. Can you make a hypothesis and design an experiment to test out your ideas on plant pigments? If so, you are thinking well. Congratulate yourself. If not, learn by doing: try to create a hypothesis to test and then, after checking with an adult and having supervision, do the experiment. You need to check for safety reasons and for budget. Just like real scientists (which you are), you will have safety, space and budget constraints. But don't worry, you can come up with other ideas that fit the constraints and challenges you run in to. Meeting such challenges makes science fun.

Analyze your data and then, evaluate
it. Judge whether your experimental design was good as you did it, or , if you would like to modify and repeat your experiment. Do your experimental results support community policies? Can you summarize your experiment into an abstract? Have you considered various ways of looking at the data you collected? Did you critique your own experimental design and experiment? Evaluation is a type of higher order thinking. Again, congratulations.

As you reflect on plant pigments, go back and re-use any of the higher order thinking skills. Use these skills again, as needed to achieve your goals.

Try communicating with other scientists, such as Philipp Simon, or, me, about your questions. You can find some results of Philipp Simon's experiments at:

Try out the Berkeley link. Do some experiments and then publish the results here or in a journal. Let us know where you have published.
Good luck, good science, and,
great thinking!

Additional reading:
Aluminum/aluminium and plant pigments
Autumn leaves and pigments
Blueberry pigments used to make solar panels
(c) 2008 J. S. Shipman

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