Cacti are a fascinating plant to study as part of a school project. Cacti are one of the few plants that have evolved to thrive in desert environments, and they have a number of interesting characteristics that allow them to do so. School projects can range from simple art projects for younger children to challenging research papers for older students. Cacti are a popular houseplant, so bring one into the classroom during your study of them.
Cactus Environment Diorama
For middle school students, a cactus-themed diorama can be an excellent way to teach about the environment where cacti thrive. Teach a lesson that covers the basics of cacti environments, focusing on one region of the country, and include the other plants and animals that also live in that region. Distribute art supplies, and have students create a diorama incorporating cacti, animals, plants and the landscape of that region. Have students label the animals and plants they include.
Cactus Science Project
This simple project demonstrates to students how cacti retain water in the desert. Have students take three paper towels and wet each of them thoroughly. Lay the first paper towel flat, roll the second paper towel in a cylinder, and roll the third paper towel into a cylinder in a piece of wax paper. Leave the paper towels overnight and observe them the next day. The paper towel in the wax paper will have retained the most water. Explain to students that cacti are covered in a waxy coating that helps them retain water in the desert.
An art project about cacti is an ideal way to introduce younger students to different types of cacti. Explain to students that not all cacti look alike--some have colorful flowers, some have short spines, and others are extremely tall. Show pictures of cacti to students and have them pick a type of cactus to draw using crayons and markers. For flowering cacti, cut out bright colorful flowers for students to paste onto their cactus drawings.
Cactus Research Project
Challenge your students with a basic research project about the cactus. Depending on the age of your students, this research project can be a simple assignment, such as "Where Are Cacti Found in the United States?" or "What are the Characteristics of a Cactus?" For more advanced students, consider assigning a more complex topic, such as "How Do Cacti Store Water in the Desert?," "What is the Scientific Classification of a Cactus?" or "What Types of Cacti Thrive in Which Environments?"
- cactus im jardin de cactus image by Karsten Thiele from Fotolia.com