Otter's Botany Curriculum - Books & Resources List

Botany curriculum books

Click here to return to the main botany page.

THIS IS AN ARCHIVED VERSION OF THIS CURRICULUM. This curriculum has been updated with NEW books, materials, and a new schedule. Click here to see the NEW books and resources.

ARCHIVED VERSION:

I've listed the books and materials scheduled below along with my notes. The list below does NOT include online resources and printables listed in the schedule. It only includes books and kits (i.e. stuff to buy or get from your library).

Consider the schedule to be a "buffet". You can substitute any other appropriate resource if something listed below is not available to you. You can also skip topics as needed or desired.

Question: I want to use this curriculum with a high schooler. Are you really expecting me to use pictures books?

Answer: I'm an adult and I'm not too old for picture books, lol. Seriously, picture books add a lot of fun to studies and build retention because they are visual. It's one thing to read about something. It's quite another to see it. Why wade through a boring textbook when you can quickly learn the same concept using a beautifully illustrated picture book? Never underestimate the power of picture books! We love them and made use of them even when the kids were "big". I recommend you get anything that is a picture book from the library, as your older kids will read through them in one sitting and probably not pick them up again.

Note: Otter didn't review all of the books we read, but for the ones he did: 5 stars means he loved it, and 1 star means he thought it was awful. ;-)

Books and materials used throughout the year or over multiple weeks:

These are books and materials are scheduled for large chunks of time. Because of this, I recommend you purchase them.

Botany for Dummies

Botany For Dummies

Botany for Dummies is the main spine of my one year curriculum. Although this book is aimed at college students, I chose it because it covers a variety of topics and explains many concepts in an easy to understand manner. Some of the book is going to be over your student's head. I've marked which portions I think should be skipped (for my middle school son).

We did this book as a read-aloud so I could discuss some of the more difficult concepts. I had a very difficult time finding a botany text that is appropriate for middle school kids through high school. Either the texts were too simple, too complicated or just didn't match what I was looking for. There aren't a lot of botany courses out there for homeschoolers! Botany for Dummies is a great compromise. It does a good job at making botany accessible and understandable!

Warning: There is some evolution in this book. I've marked the sections of the book which mention it in the schedule, so those of you who don't believe in evolution can be forewarned and skip those pages. I can't guarantee I made note of every single instance, so preview the text, if that is a concern!

Botany curriculum

Botany in 8 Lessons by Ellen McHenry

I love all of Ellen's curricula! Botany in 8 lessons has a text stuffed with easy-to-understand info, activities, and printables.

Essential Atlas of Botany

Essential Atlas of Botany

Otter's rating: 5 stars

Click here for a preview of some of the pages.

This book isn't essential, but I like how it presents a variety of botany topics in easy to understand, visual ways. Concepts are presented via clear and colorful illustrations and photos in this handy reference.

The Botany Coloring Book

The Botany Coloring Book

Otter's rating: 1 star - Otter didn't enjoy the coloring. If your kids like to color, they'll like the book. If not, they might find it boring. I think this book helps explain topics in a visual manner.

Click here for a sample page.

This is a great supplement, but it can get quite complicated on some pages. I marked which pages I assigned to Otter and which pages I recommend only for high schoolers due to the complexity of the various topics. I recommend you do NOT get it if you are using this curriculum with a younger student, unless s/he is highly motivated and very interested in botany.

Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History

Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History

This attractive book has all sorts of interesting stories about various plants that have influenced history. I love how it weaves the stories of plants with people and events. Some adult topics are discussed, so you will need to preview for appropriateness for your family.

Some of these history-changing plants include:

  • Agave, used to make sisal, poison arrows, bullets, tequila and surgical thread
  • Hemp, used for hangman's rope, sustainable plastics, the Declaration of Independence and Levi's jeans
  • Coconut, used for coir fiber, soap, margarine, cream, sterile IV drips and coagulants
  • Eucalyptus, used in mouthwash, diuretics, vitamins, honey, underwear and fire-resistant uniforms
  • White mulberry, used to make silk
  • English oak, used for fire-resistant structures, dyes, leather tanning, charcoal, casks and ships
  • White willow, used in the manufacture of aspirin, cricket bats, hot-air balloon baskets and coffins

(List quoted from book description)

Click here for a notebooking page to use as you study some of these plants.

100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names

100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names

Otter's rating: stars (for the information) and 0 stars for what it's about because Otter doesn't love flowers, lol.

This book isn't just about plants . It weaves mythology, history, people and places into 1-3 page stories. So while you get familiarized with 100 different flowers, you'll also learn a lot about all sorts of interesting tidbits and trivia.

Each flower is illustrated in black and white. I recommend Googling a full color picture after each story to help your student better learn to identify each flower.

Click here for a notebooking page to use as you study some of these plants.

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities

*Kindle edition available

Otter's rating: 5 stars

*Warning: This book describes all sorts of poisonous and intoxicating plants. Use at your discretion!

"A tree that sheds poison daggers; a glistening red seed that stops the heart; a shrub that causes paralysis; a vine that strangles; and a leaf that triggered a war. In Wicked Plants, Stewart takes on over two hundred of Mother Nature’s most appalling creations. It’s an A to Z of plants that kill, maim, intoxicate, and otherwise offend. You’ll learn which plants to avoid (like exploding shrubs), which plants make themselves exceedingly unwelcome (like the vine that ate the South), and which ones have been killing for centuries (like the weed that killed Abraham Lincoln's mother).

Menacing botanical illustrations and splendidly ghastly drawings create a fascinating portrait of the evildoers that may be lurking in your own backyard. Drawing on history, medicine, science, and legend, this compendium of bloodcurdling botany will entertain, alarm, and enlighten even the most intrepid gardeners and nature lovers." Quote from book description

 

Worms Eat Our Garbage: Classroom Activities for a Better Environment

Worms Eat Our Garbage: Classroom Activities for a Better Environment

This book is designed for grades 4-8, but even your big kids will learn a lot. It teaches all sorts of science about worms and composting.

Worm Composting Kit

Worm Composting Kit

*You can build your own low cost worm composting box instead of buying one like this.

If you are trying to justify the cost, think of it this way: You're learning something interesting while you are doing something good for the environment and your plants with your kitchen waste. Cut down on your garbage and put it to work!

 

Uncle Jim's Worm Farm 1,000 Count Red Wiggler Live Composting Worms

Uncle Jim's Worm Farm 1,000 Count Red Wiggler Live Composting Worms

If you decide to make a worm bin, you'll need worms. These are the kind that are recommended.

Nature Study & Art Books

I think studying nature is an important component to a homeschool education. This year we will incorporate art and journaling into our nature walks.

Illustrating Nature: Right-Brain Art in a Left-Brain World

Illustrating Nature: Right-Brain Art in a Left-Brain World

Preview online

"Illustrating Nature ~ Right-brain Art in a Left-brain World is the secret doorway to realistic drawing – open this book and find the kind of instruction that you’ve always wanted.

Even if nature isn’t your all-time hot interest, the bountiful illustrations, generous tips, and step-by-step tutorials focusing on natural objects you can find anywhere, anytime, will give you a jump-start on any other type of subject you choose, from still-life compositions to action figures to landscapes. This book sets you off on a trail of adventure ~ and who knows where it will lead! Dive into this book to discover how you can make your pencil do what you tell it to do. Use your new-found skills to improve your paintings, sketch in your field journal, design and illustrate your own business or greeting cards, or create a home school curriculum for your kids – whatever you desire.

This book is for ages 13 and up;– from college students and art-loving teens, to adults looking for a new career or simply wanting to develop their creative skills." Quote from book description

Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You

Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You

This book is NOT scheduled in. It has suggestions for journaling throughout the different seasons.

Draw 50 Flowers, Trees and Other Plants

Draw 50 Flowers, Trees and Other Plants

If you are incorporating art into your nature & botany study this year, this book should help build your student's drawing confidence indoors. Take a peek at the Amazon preview to see a few of the drawing lessons. This books is NOT scheduled in. Use it as desired.

Botany in a Day

Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification

Despite the title, this is not a "learn it in one day" sort of book. Black and white line drawings accompany the text.

This book is not scheduled in. I only recommend this book if you really want to learn how to identify a variety of plants by learning to recognize which family they come from. This would probably be a long term project. We did not use it, but I'm including it for those of you who may be interested in really digging deeper. If you are interested in using it, you will need to take some time to spend outdoors learning how to identify plants in a wild setting.

Be aware that it does include evolution in the beginning.

 
Chocolate: Riches from the Rainforest

Chocolate: Riches from the Rainforest

Otter's rating: 5 stars

You only need one of the books about chocolate. Pick this one or the one below.

The Biography of Chocolate

The Biography of Chocolate

Otter's rating: 5 stars

Otter really likes this series of books so I've scheduled them in throughout the year. They are a great mix of photos, illustrations and information that mixes science, geography, history and more into the text. They are a great way to see some of the impact of plants.

Chocolate by Hershey: A Story About Milton S. Hershey

History link! You don't need to do any of the history or literature links, but they help round out your study. Plants have affected people's lives directly and indirectly!

Chocolate by Hershey: A Story About Milton S. Hershey

Otter's rating: 2 stars

This is a short chapter book about Milton Hershey. If you are using this study with a high school student, you may want to explore some of books geared towards adults like:

Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams

or

Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World's Greatest Chocolate Makers

Make Your Own Chocolate Kit

Make Your Own Chocolate Kit

Otter's rating: 5 stars

Otter used this kit before. Click here to see our experience with it. He loved it so much, we're doing it again with our botany kick-off topic: Chocolate! The kit was actually really fun and it was quite interesting to see what cocoa butter and cacao beans are like!

Plant Classification (Life of Plants)

Plant Classification (Life of Plants)
Google preview

Otter's rating: 3 stars

This book has lots of color pictures and illustrations. It's an easy read, but it covers a good deal of info.

Carl Linnaeus: Father of Classification (Great Minds of Science)

Carl Linnaeus: Father of Classification (Great Minds of Science)

"Profiles the life of the eighteenth-century Swedish naturalist whose scientific naming of plants and animals provided an international language of nature." Quote from book description

Click here for a Google preview.

The Biography of Wheat

The Biography of Wheat

This is another "Biography" book! Both my boys really liked this set of books.

 

Farmer George Plants a Nation

History link!

Farmer George Plants a Nation is an easy picture book. Don't buy it if you have older kids. I'm got it from the library. It's a way to tie history to plants.

 

The Biography of Sugar

The Biography of Sugar

Otter's rating: 4 stars

This is another great "Biography" book! Both my boys really liked this set of books.

 

Nyokki Grass Pets - Froggie Nyoki grass pet

Nyokki Grass Pets

Otter's rating: 5 stars

These are just too cute. They add a bit of fun into your botany study and can sit on a windowsill or wherever to remind your students what they are learning about. I bought the froggie for Otter. I also used this with a student I tutored. It was a big hit.

 

The Biography of Potatoes

The Biography of Potatoes

Otter's rating: 4 stars

This is another "Biography" book! Both my boys really liked this set of books.

 

Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850

History link!

Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850

This is a great book to tie into the roots topic while adding in a dose of history.

 

Potato Chip Science: 29 Incredible Experiments

Potato Chip Science: 29 Incredible Experiments

Otter's rating: 2 stars - Otter felt like the packaging was dishonest because he expected the kit to come with potato chips, but it didn't. That kind of soured his entire feelings for the kit, hence the low rating, lol. He did play with it for hours though. I think that speaks for what he really thought of it. ;-)

If you can, you don't want to skip out on fun kits like this one. Let your students play a bit for science and keep the interest level high. This particular kit really gets off the plant science specifics, but it ties in all sorts of other scientific principles that are low key and fun and encourages kids to think outside the box.

Really big kids may think it's too easy (but might secretly enjoy it anyway).

 

Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System

Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System

This is an optional long-term project that will require you to set up a worm bin (which is easy and cheap to do). Worms are a great addition to a garden and are interesting to study. Feed your plants while you feed your worms your kitchen garbage!

WormVue Wonders

WormVue Wonders

If you don't want to make a worm bin, this might be a less involved alternative to observing worms.

 

Tulipomania : The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused

History link!

Tulipomania : The Story of the World's Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused

This book was written with an adult audience in mind. Preview.

The Groundbreaking, Chance-Taking Life of George Washington Carver and Science and Invention in America

History link!

The Groundbreaking, Chance-Taking Life of George Washington Carver and Science and Invention in America

The Life and Times of the Peanut

The Life and Times of the Peanut

An easy picture book written for younger grades with lots of interesting info.

DuneCraft Sprout 'n Grow Greenhouses - Peanuts

DuneCraft Sprout 'n Grow Greenhouses - Peanuts

Grow some peanut plants and watch the leaves close at night.

The Biography of Tea

The Biography of Tea

Yet another book in the Biography series...

After reading it, have a variety of teas on hand to sample!

 

Tomatoes, Potatoes, Corn, and Beans: How the Foods of the Americas Changed Eating Around the World

History link!

Tomatoes, Potatoes, Corn, and Beans: How the Foods of the Americas Changed Eating Around the World

 

The Biography of Vanilla

The Biography of Vanilla

Otter's rating: 5 stars

Another Biography series book

 

The Biography of Coffee

The Biography of Coffee

Otter's rating: 5 stars

Another Biography series book

 

One Hundred Flowers

One Hundred Flowers

This is a beautiful coffee table style book. Use it to learn how to identify specific flowers and appreciate their beauty. You can also use it as inspiration for a photography project.

Growing Patterns

Growing Patterns

This is a super easy picture book. The reason why I'm getting it is because I want to draw Otter's attention to the fact that nature is very orderly and you can observe some very distinct patterns in it. Was this an accident? Our family doesn't think so.

The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe (Scientists in the Field Series)

The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe (Scientists in the Field Series)

*Kindle edition available

Learn about bees and also explore the mystery of why they might be disappearing. Interesting!

 

The Life and Times of the Honeybee

The Life and Times of the Honeybee

This is another easy, picture book - but it's packed with lots of info and interesting trivia.

 

Bees: Tales From the Hive

NOVA: Bees - Tales From the Hive

Online

We really enjoy NOVA programs. This one is an excellent documentary on bees.

 

Vanishing of the Bees (Netflix streaming)

Vanishing of the Bees (Netflix streaming)

Streaming video at Amazon
(free for Prime members)

 

The Biography of Bananas

The Biography of Bananas

Otter's rating: 5 stars

Another Biography series book

 

Respiration and Photosynthesis (Sci-Hi: Life Science)

Respiration and Photosynthesis (Sci-Hi: Life Science)

This book has an experiment to do in it as well as a quiz at the end. It's an easy read that's perfect for reluctant readers or younger students or just to learn the material quickly and visually.

 

The Biography of Rice

The Biography of Rice

Otter's rating: 3 stars

Yet another Biography series book

 

The Biography of Corn

The Biography of Corn

Otter's rating: 3 stars

Yet another Biography series book

 

The Life and Times of Corn

The Life and Times of Corn

Another book in the Life and Times series. It's an easy picture book packed with interesting tidbits.

 

King Corn (Netflix streaming)

King Corn You can get this at Netflix. You can also get it via YouTube. Just do a search.

"In Aaron Woolf's thought-provoking documentary, friends Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis move back to America's Corn Belt to plant an acre of the nation's most-grown and most-subsidized grain and follow their crop into the U.S. food supply."

 

Plant Propagator's Bible

Plant Propagator's Bible

"Drawing on her many years as a horticulture teacher, Miranda Smith explains the natural process and conditions in which plants grow and reproduce, and shows gardeners how to use these systems to propagate any plant that grows in their garden or greenhouse--or even on their windowsill." Quote from book description

You don't need this book unless you really want to explore some plant propagation techniques. The schedule includes a simple alternative propagation technique you can do with geraniums. However, if you want to go more in depth, this is a great book to explore.

Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas

Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas

Even though this is a picture book, in the Amazon reviews a high school biology teacher talks about how she uses this in her honors biology classes. I love the pictures.

 

Plants: Flowering Plants, Ferns, Mosses, and Other Plants (Class of Their Own

Plants: Flowering Plants, Ferns, Mosses, and Other Plants

This is an easy, informative book with lots of color, illustrations and photos.

Fungi: Mushrooms, Toadstools, Molds, Yeasts, and Other Fungi

Fungi: Mushrooms, Toadstools, Molds, Yeasts, and Other Fungi

This is another book like the one above.

 

Molds, Mushrooms & Other Fungi

Molds, Mushrooms & Other Fungi

Google preview

This book reminds me of DK books. It's very visual.

 

Mushroom Farm in a Box

Grow Your Own Mushroom Kits on Amazon

How cool to grow your own mushrooms! You should do it at least once. This kit is a perfect accompaniment to the fungus topic.

Note: The top kit is only available from October through April, so plan accordingly!

 

The Biography of Spices

The Biography of Spices

Another Biography series book

Rachel Carson: Clearing the Way for Environmental Protection (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Inventors & Scientists)

History link!

Rachel Carson: Clearing the Way for Environmental Protection (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Inventors & Scientists)

Otter loves all of the books by Mike Venezia. Even our big kids enjoyed them in high school. The books are easy reads, humorous and memorable.

The Wild Muir: Twenty-two of John Muir's Greatest Adventures

History link!

The Wild Muir: Twenty-two of John Muir's Greatest Adventures

Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees

Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees

This book is a visual treat. We plan on browsing it for the pictures. You can use it for some drawing/sketching inspiration as well. Watch the book trailer!

The Biography of Rubber

The Biography of Rubber

Another book in the Biography series

The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown Ups

The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown Ups

Google preview

A good overview of all the many parts of a tree that's nicely illustrated and also helps kids learn to identify various things they may find on a hike.

 

Kit, Leaf Identification

Kit, Leaf Identification

"LEAF IDENTIFICATION KIT. Using real leaf specimens and a key-guide, students learn to identify and classify leaves by their shape, size, venation, margin characteristics, and positioning on the twig. Contains 13 different leaves, each individually carded, labeled and bagged. Also included are two sets of these same leaves, unidentified (for a total of 39 leaves). Includes teacher’s guide with hands-on activities, leaf key for unknowns and a 61 page Tree Finder identification book." Quote from Acorn Naturalists

We have this kit at home and it's great for hands-on learning. Expand your student's knowledge and ability to identify various trees.

 

Discover Amber Kit

Discover Amber Kit

Amber comes from tree sap. Polish the piece of amber to discover the trapped bugs inside.

 

Make Your Own Chewing Gum Kit

Make Your Own Chewing Gum Kit

Otter's rating: 5 stars

We've used this kit before and plan on using it again. Be aware that the plastic black tray has a tendency to melt in the microwave (this happened to us) - so switch to a glass bowl or heat the chicle on the stove. The kit comes with a booklet explaining where the chicle comes from (trees!).

The Super Soybean

The Super Soybean

This is another easy read. Find out many of the amazing uses of the humble soybean!

 

The Biography of Cotton

The Biography of Cotton

Otter's rating: 4 stars

Another Biography series book

 

Skunk Cabbage, Sundew Plants, and Strangler Figs: And 18 More of the Strangest Plants on Earth

Skunk Cabbage, Sundew Plants, and Strangler Figs: And 18 More of the Strangest Plants on Earth

*Mentions millions of years in the beginning of the book

This is an interesting book. We're getting it from the library as there are just a few used copies on Amazon.

 

 

Wisconsin Fast Plants® Dihybrid Genetics Kit

Wisconsin Fast Plants® Dihybrid Genetics Kit

Don't bother with this kit if you have a younger student. This is a study in plant genetics designed for grades 8-12.

However, having said that, there are all kinds of awesome plant experiments to do with Fast Plants that are appropriate for all ages. Click here to go to the official Fast Plant website with lots of free printables and goodies. There are downloadable lesson plans for ALL ages (elementary through college) including fat 200+ page packets with worksheets, etc.

So, if you don't want to use Fast Plants to study genetics, I highly recommend you look into using them in another capacity. There are lots of different kits and experiments that highly compliment this year's studies!

Click here to order seeds from Amazon.

BrainPop

I scheduled in 11 Brain POP movies. Otter loves BrainPOP. Not only are there a variety of short, humorous movies and quizzes on a bunch of different topics, there are also new, educational games. Just the other day I caught our adult homeschool graduate Emily taking over one of Otter's games about politics because it was so much fun. The subscription is expensive, so it's NOT required. We used it for a variety of subjects and not just science, so it was worth it for our family. I recommend the FAMILY subscription, NOT the homeschool subscription. The family subscription is less expensive. The homeschool subscription allows more than one child to access BrainPOP at a time, but costs twice as much.

Otter's rating: 5 stars

Add this book in for high schoolers. This book is NOT scheduled in. Read it when you have time!
Latin for Gardeners: Over 3,000 Plant Names Explained and Explored

Latin for Gardeners: Over 3,000 Plant Names Explained and Explored

"Since Latin became the standard language for plant naming in the eighteenth century, it has been intrinsically linked with botany. And while mastery of the classical language may not be a prerequisite for tending perennials, all gardeners stand to benefit from learning a bit of Latin and its conventions in the field. Without it, they might buy a Hellebores foetidus and be unprepared for its fetid smell, or a Potentilla reptans with the expectation that it will stand straight as a sentinel rather than creep along the ground.

An essential addition to the gardener’s library, this colorful, fully illustrated book details the history of naming plants, provides an overview of Latin naming conventions, and offers guidelines for pronunciation. Readers will learn to identify Latin terms that indicate the provenance of a given plant and provide clues to its color, shape, fragrance, taste, behavior, functions, and more. 

Full of expert instruction and practical guidance, Latin for Gardeners will allow novices and green thumbs alike to better appreciate the seemingly esoteric names behind the plants they work with, and to expertly converse with fellow enthusiasts. Soon they will realize that having a basic understanding of Latin before trips to the nursery or botanic garden is like possessing some knowledge of French before traveling to Paris; it enriches the whole experience." Quote from book description

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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