Our fourth-grade bilingual class began a study of medicinal plants by brainstorming what they knew about the use of plants as medicine. Many of the children had experience with or had heard of using aloe vera to help heal burns or cuts, chamomile (manzanilla) tea for stomach pain or upset and for a calming effect, and mint (hierbabuena) tea, also for the stomach.
The next step was to ask for help from family and friends. Students collected information from people they knew and from the internet about medicinal plants, and we compiled a list of the plants and their uses.
Finally, during a photojournalism project at our school and as part of Davis Oral History Family Night, students interviewed individuals about their knowledge of medicinal plants. It is our good fortune that Sr. Emilio Verdugo works at Davis as a monitor, and is also a practicing healer, or curandero, who has vast knowledge of how plants are used for medicinal purposes. Sr. Verdugo is very gracious in sharing this knowledge with others. Students also interviewed residents of the school neighborhood, Barrio Anita, as well as some family members.
In this chapter we share some excerpts from the interviews. Students are in the process of creating a bilingual web page about medicinal plants and a play that will include some of the information they have learned. Some students are putting their new knowledge to practical use, requesting mint or chamomile tea in the classroom when they have stomach troubles, rather than making a visit to the school nurse.