Tokyo Institute of Technology: Elementary school students study botany and create natural bookmarks at online workshop

Tokyo Tech’s School of Life Science and Technology hosted another science workshop for elementary school children on February 6. The online event, supported by the Tokyo Tech Fund, brought together 30 child-guardian pairs to study the structure of plants and create natural bookmarks using tree leaves. Fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders from various locations across Japan participated in the hands-on session.

Before the event, participants were sent a kit of tools by mail and were asked to prepare by collecting plants and leaves from their surroundings. The workshop kicked off with a lecture by Professor Emeritus Yukihisa Hamaguchi. After Hamaguchi’s informative talk on plants and leaf venation patterns, alumni from the Hamaguchi Lab joined children and guardians in five breakout rooms to assist with the experiments and craft activities on the agenda.

The children moisturized the leaves they had collected with a fluorescent dye, allowing them to grasp how water is transported around a leaf, and extracted the veins from pre-treated leaves that had been enclosed in their tool kits. While the online environment posed some challenges regarding visual instruction, organizers were able to provide detailed instructions by assisting participants in small groups, and by zooming in on their hands during experiments. After the session, the participants sent in photos of their fluorescent-dye-stained leaves and their completed leaf vein bookmarks.

Finished bookmarks, photo courtesy of participant
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to restrict the activities of both children and their guardians, and participants of this workshop expressed great satisfaction in being able to participate online. Despite the circumstances, Tokyo Tech continues to seek new, innovative ways through which it can share the joys of science with the broader community.

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