Introductory activities

Choose a Plant

This activity encourages students to reflect on themselves and compare how they feel and what they need to that of a plant. Through conversation and discussion, community can be strengthened.
Choose a Plant
Educator prep: None
Student prep: None
Synchronousor Asynchronous
Shared online space
Duration: Variable

Activity purpose

This activity encourages students to reflect on themselves and compare how they feel and what they need to that of a plant. Through conversation and discussion, community can be strengthened.

Useful for

Introductions, personal sharing with agency, and practicing effective communication skills.


Let students know ahead of time what you want them to “bring” with them to the class session, whether that’s a physical object or digital image they’ve chosen or drawn. You can also wait and give all directions, including drawing time during your time together.


  1. Ask students ahead of time to reflect on how they’ve been doing (e.g. during a time before you plan to share). Then, encourage each person to find a plant that goes with how they’re doing. They can think of this in terms of their growth, their capacity for giving, or just how they feel in general. What they choose can be a real plant, a photo they’ve taken or found, or it can be a drawing or another piece of art.
  2. Synchronously, students can each share as little or as much about their plant, photo, or link as they want to. Others can comment or ask questions. Encourage folks to consider expressing feelings as well as needs associated with their plant. This can be done via large group or small group sharing.
  3. Asynchronously, students can post images or links on a shared Google doc with a short explanation or on their own blogs. Or, they can share in small groups, using breakout rooms. Encourage folks to express feelings as well as needs associated with their plant if they want to.
  4. Facilitate a discussion using questions like the following.
    • What was this activity like for you? What was it like to learn about others in this way?
    • How can you honor your own feelings and needs as we learn together?
    • What can we do together to honor one another’s feelings and needs?
    • What do you want to remember from this? And, how might you help yourself remember it?

In closing, remind everyone that like plants who give so much in our ecosystems, humans have much to give too. Also like plants, humans are better able to grow, thrive, and give when they are well take care of. Not everyone needs the same things at any given time though. People’s needs are unique, and they change according to many factors, including stress. Some needs are things people can tend to themselves, but for others, humans depend on one another. As such, it’s important to communicate needs and help one another meet them as much as possible within reciprocal relationships.


If done synchronously, this activity could take 2-3 minutes per participant in a large or small group. When done asynchronously, time must be devoted to posting as well as responding to others with comments or questions because part of the power of this activity comes from back-and-forth sharing as well as the discussion afterwards. Plan to allow at least 15 minutes for the discussion.

Adaptations and examples

Instead of asking students to find their own image, consider cutting out photographs and magazine images of various plants and flowers so that students can choose an image from a large collection. Or, collect them digitally in a shared folder or Google doc. Also, think about extending the activity with a writing or journaling assignment as desired.

Technical requirements

You will need a space to share images like Google docs, Google slides, Padlet, or another tool that allows uploading photos, screen sharing, or sharing of links.

Useful resources

  • Alexander, J. (2019). Building trauma-sensitive schools: Your guide to creating safe, supportive learning environments for all students. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.
  • Alexander, J. (2021). Supporting students and staff after COVID-19: Your trauma-sensitive back-to-school transition plan. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.
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