First Studies of Plant Life ~ Free eBook

First Studies of Plant Life ~ Free eBook
First Studies of Plant Life ~ Free eBook

First Studies of Plant Life is a free public domain eBook by George Francis Atkinson, who at the time the book was written was a Professor of Biology at Cornell University.

The author’s purpose in writing the book was to interest young students in plant life, not by teaching them something, but rather appealing to their curiosity and willingness to investigate:

Why then should we not encourage a continuance of this kind of knowledge-seeking on the part of the child? The young pupil cannot, of course, be left entirely to himself in working out the relation and meaning of things. But opportunities often present themselves when the child should be encouraged to make the observations and from these learn why the result is so. No more excellent opportunities are afforded than in nature study. The topics most suitable are those which deal with the life, or work, or the conditions and states of formation.

The author goes on to say that portions of the book will still need a teacher’s guidance. But others rely on stories and biographies that the student can read for himself.

The plants talk by a “sign language,” which the pupil is encouraged to read and interpret. This method lends itself in a happy manner as an appeal to the child’s power of interpretation of the things which it sees.


The book consists of five parts:

  • The growth and parts of plants.
  • The work of plants.
  • The behavior of plants.
  • Life stories of plants.
  • Battles of plants in the world.

As you can see, this is not your everyday plant textbook!

The first chapter starts right off with instructions for planting seeds and watching them grow. In the second chapter, the student observes the plants as they grow. The third chapter has the student dissecting and sketching the seed.

As the book moves on in this manner the student continues to engage with the text, but also with the objects he is reading about. Great way to learn science!

Of course, you realize at this point if you have visited this site for a while, we are ready to recommend having the student keep a science notebook to record these valuable observations!

The index will help you locate information on specific plants or scientific topics.

Anna Botsford Comstock, author of the Handbook of Nature Study, states in the Introduction:

“First Studies of Plant Life” has been written with the sole view of bringing the life processes of the plant within the reach of the child and, with the aid of the competent teacher, it will certainly be comprehensible to the pupil of even the lower grades. In this book the plant stands before the child as a living being with needs like his own. To live, the plant must be born, must be nourished, must breathe, must reproduce, and, after experiencing these things, must die. Each plant that is grown in the window box of a schoolroom should reveal to the child the secrets and the story of a whole life. He realizes that the young plant must be fed; it must grow; it is no longer a matter of commonplace; it is replete with interest, because it is the struggle of an individual to live. How does it get its food? How does it grow? It is of little moment whether its leaves are lanceolate or palmate; it is a question of what the leaves do for the plant; it is a matter of life or death.

First Studies in Plant Life is a heavily illustrated, accessible guide to experimenting with plants. A perfect complement to our free nature study series!

Free eBook
Additional Resources
First Studies of Plant Life

First Studies of Plant Life by Atkinson
Quality paperback version for those interested.

Free Nature Studies: Our Wonderful World
Our own nature studies using the book Our Wonderful World by Emery Lewis, covering backyard neighbors, feathered friends, garden life, four-footed comrades, and the earth and its neighbors. 32 weeks of free nature study lessons! Plant lessons:

Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock
Originally written in 1911 by the head of the Department of Nature Study at Cornell University, this much-loved handbook shows us how to observe nature in 887 pages of detail.  While the paperback is still in print, the original is also available online as a free download.