Plants brighten up a classroom and provide opportunities for learning how to take care of growing things. However, plants can wreak havoc in a classroom if a student or teacher has a plant allergy. Some plants are also poisonous if sampled by students. While high school students can generally be trusted not to eat plants, the same cannot be said of preschoolers or special needs kids. The safest plants for the classroom have both a low allergen potential and won't make kids sick if tasted or cause allergic reactions when touched.
There are few things related to the plant world more fascinating to a school-aged kid than feeding insects to a living plant. The Venus flytrap, despite the name and science fiction reputation, makes a safe school classroom choice because it does not eat little fingers or anything bigger than an insect, which makes it perfectly safe for people. It is interesting, non-toxic and not known as a plant with high allergy potential. Additionally, children have a natural affinity for this unusual plant. The Venus flytrap also serves as an excellent learning tool because it is a carnivorous plant.
Flowers not only brighten up the classroom and improve the air, they also provide quick gratification. Flowers considered safe from both an allergy and a toxic perspective include African violets, begonias, evening primrose, impatiens, petunias and zinnias, according to Dr. Retha Edens, an assistant professor of science education at Saint Louis University. Crocuses, daffodils, geraniums, impatiens, lilies and tulips also produce little pollen and present a low risk for allergic reactions in the classroom.
Growing herbs in the classroom teaches children where grocery store spices in a jar actually come from. Herbs grow relatively quickly, so children can see the results of their labors. Nontoxic herbs not usually associated with allergies for the classroom include basil, chives and oregano, Edens reports. Of course, once the herbs are grown, an adventurous teacher might include herbs like basil, chives and oregano into recipes the students help make, like basil and oregano on baked chicken or in tomato sauce for spaghetti (or other pasta dishes), and chives in sour cream or mashed potatoes.
Prayer plants, spider plants and bird's nest ferns all work well in classrooms, according to Edens. All three have interesting names, don't cause toxic reactions if eaten or touched, are unlikely to cause allergic reactions and grow well indoors. Spider plants are particularly hardy, and they grow quickly. Additionally, the numerous plantlets of the spider plant might amuse the students, and they can introduce botany, in how to multiply the spider plant.
- Teaching Exceptional Children Plus: Are There Toxic Plants in Your Classroom? A Resource for Teachers of Children with Exceptional Needs
- Web MD: Best and Worst Flowers for People With Allergies
- The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: Poisonous Plants
- About Kids Health: Plant Safety
- The American Journal of Medicine: Harmless Herbs? A Review of Recent Literature
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