Do They Really “Know Nothing”? An inquiry into ethnobotanical knowledge of students in Arizona, USA

O’Brien, Colleen M.
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
Recent research indicates differences in what children know and how they learn about plants when compared to their parents and grandparents. Ethnobotanical research was conducted with students in Ajo, Arizona, U.S.A, a rural town that has undergone vast social, economic, and political changes. The interviews included free lists and an identification exercise using video clips of Sonoran Desert plants. Students have a limited knowledge of the plant domain listing an average of five plants, the majority of which were non-native. Students correctly identified an average of 4+/- 2.65 out of 20 Sonoran plants. Size and integration into the market economy were limiting factors in the identification of particular plant referents. Students who reported learning about the desert from experience or a person had higher identification scores than those who named other means. The research results highlight how cultural knowledge about local plants can be applied to educational programs that promote experiential learning.
O’Brien C M. 2010. Do they really “know nothing”? An inquiry into ethnobotanical knowledge of students in Arizona, USA. Ethnobotany Res Appl 8:035-047.
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