Miscellaneous Ideas About the Opening of the Paper Flower
Andrea and her children, Merideth and Grant, were so very helpful. Following is some of the dialog between Andrea and me. Some might be repetitive, but I think you will also discover information not included in The Blooming of A Paper Flower.
Andrea: “I asked them if they knew why flowers open and shut.”
Grant: “They close when they are too cold, and they open to get sunlight.”
Merideth: “They want bees to drink their pollen so they open and they close to protect their leaves.”
Janice: “These are beautiful answers and very informative.”
“Notice that each of their answers give flowers thinking and reasoning abilities, which is something that we hear on many science documentaries.”
For example: “My husband and I were watching a science documentary about dinosaurs. The narrator credited dinosaurs as being the cause of one species of tree being so tall. It was explained that the trees adapted by growing taller so that the dinosaurs could not reach their leaves”
My husband commented that the trees must be very stupid because they are still tall and according to the narrator, dinosaurs died out millions of years ago.
I think the trees were always tall because of their DNA coding.
The DNA coding of an organism would have to change for the organism to have different physical characteristics. Scientists experimented to see if cutting off the tails of rats would result in offspring being born with no tails. Baby rats had tails–Every cell in your body has the same DNA–cutting off tails isn’t going to change the DNA coding. When DNA coding is changed, a sterile organism can be the outcome–such as mules (offspring of a horse and a donkey)
Janice: Back to the children’s comments–I would praise them for their answers. As they learn more about biochemistry of organisms, their answers will reflect that parts of some plants, such as Morning Glories, move in response to external stimuli–such as temperature, touch, chemicals, humidity, etc…This type of plant movement, which is not in the direction of the stimuli, is called nastic movement. Nastic movement is due to sap moving into or out of plant parts. Like Meridith predicted, water moving into the paper caused the paper to expand, thus as Grant predicted, the petal unfold and voila’ the flower opens. Basically the same thing happens with Morning Glories–but its a bit more complicated–light triggers some plant hormone which chemically reacts with something that —-and on it goes with the result being sap movement that pushes open folded flower petals. Just remember–plants do not think–they only respond due to chemical changes within their cells.
Andrea: We talked about the sap in the flowers forcing them to open during the day, just like the water in our paper flowers forced them to open.
Janice: YEA!!! But unlike the paper flower, real flowers that quickly open due to the movement of sap close during the day when the sap moves out of the petals.
Andrea: I then asked the kids what are some things that could make our outcome different. Their responses were: instead of flowers make square shapes, using hot water instead of cold water, doing it with the lights turned out, and doing it outside instead of inside.
Janice: Now for extending the experiment by considering variables. This is a good time to introduce expressing science questions that identify the variable that might affect the experimental results. Maybe have a form question in which only the variables need to be added. Notice that I added the speed the flower opens. While I did not have this in my experiment (will add it–thanks Andrea) it is an easy way to decide if changes affect the results.
How does ______ affect the OPENING SPEED of the folded petals.
(1.) How does the paper’s shape affect the OPENING SPEED of the folded parts.
(2.) How does light affect the OPENING SPEED of the folded petals.
(3.) How does water temperature affect the Opening SPEED of the folded petals.
(4) How does folding affect the OPENING SPEED of the folded petals.
Kids in elementary as well as in middle school could use any one of these questions to develop a science project.
Janice: Each of the question could have a hypothesis—a prediction about the results. The kids now know what happens when the folded paper petals are in water.
A hypothesis for the first question might be something like this.
If the shape of the paper is _____(like, not like) the flower shape, then the opening speed of the folded parts will be ___ (faster, slower, no change).
Andrea: Our results
The squares did not open up completely. Only one half opened up.
Janice: I wonder…were the squares folded in a similar way as the flower shape? What variable could be responsible for this results? (Andrea later told me that the squares were not folded like the flowers.)
The hot water made the paper open up instantly.
Janice: UUM! Instantly? I suggest that you give some comparison. How about: The flowers in hot water opened much faster than the flowers in cold water.
I wonder… If you have different containers with water at different temperatures, and folded flowers are dropped into the container at the samet time—would the paper flowers open in order from fast to slowest. I like this thought—I can see the paper flowers opening as if set to music. WOW!
Andrea: Results 3.
Doing it with the lights turned out did nothing.
Janice: UMM! How do you know if the lights were out? HA!! Couldn’t help myself. I think the only way to check this would be to repeat the experiment several time with varied amounts of light from bright to very dim.
Going outside did not change how it opened.
Janice: UUM! I wonder…Instead of concluding that there was no change. We can cover our bases so to speak by saying that there was no apparent change. We cannot be sure that there was absolutely no change–maybe with time-lapse photography the minutest change could be measured.
I want to encourage kids to give themselves “wiggle room” in case someone has measured a change. I want them to look for possible ways that their results could be more accurate.
I want to encourage kids not to be dogmatic about current ideas or theories–even scientific laws could be wrong. Yes, we use the information that we have now, but “Good Science” teaches kids that they just might discover something that totally discredits currently accepted science views.
The kids decided that the hotter and sunnier that the day is, the faster a flower would open up.
Janice: Let me suggest that conclusions be very descriptive.
The hotter the water, the faster the folded paper flower opens.
The sunnier the day, the faster the folded paper flower opens. ???? I am confused, about this. The results stated that being outdoors in the sunshine had no affect on the paper opening. (Andrea later said that the idea was for the sunlight to warm the water, but they were not out long enough.)
If I am correct, information about real flowers responding to sunlight creeped into the conclusion about the paper flower experiment. While its true for real flowers, it wasn’t the result you got for the paper flower. This is an error that scientists have to be very careful about.
Follow Up Research
We reviewed what makes a flower open and close. They were right about flowers opening when it is hotter and sunnier, but only for some types of flowers. It all depends on the type of flower that it is. Some do open during the day as it gets hotter. Some open when it is cooler later in the day, and some open at night. We also learned something new, that there are flowers that even respond to touch, and will “play dead” if they are touched by a hand or a twig. We also learned that the cells on the outer petals of a flower grow faster than the insides of the flower and this makes the flower close.
Janice:I’ll provide a simple experiment later to demonstrate this. You might remind me about this.
Ideas for Next Time
Andrea, “If we do this again, I think I would let them cut their own flowers out. They are both old enough to do this, and I think they would have enjoyed doing their own.