Art, education and biology collaboration creates “My Life as a Plant” coloring book

UNC biology professor Alan Jones gives the coloring book world a new theme . . . plants!

“Raising children of my own, I always saw coloring books of all kinds,” Jones said, “but I never saw a coloring book that taught a child a concept of plant biology.”

His idea for the coloring book was to teach the 12 principles of plant biology with drawings and simple language that children would understand. Seeking funding for the project, Jones proposed “My Life as a Plant” to the American Society of Plant Biologists in fall 2011.

“I wasn’t sure if it would pass, but I felt it was definitely something my professional society needed for their education missions,” he said. The society accepted Jones’ proposal, and its education foundation agreed to fund the coloring book’s design and production.

Over the next year, Jones and undergraduates that he recruited in the disciplines of art, education and biology developed a coloring book that would teach children about plant physiology, anatomy, ecology, cell biology and evolution.

Emily O’Mara, a global cognitive neurology major, is one of the many UNC students who helped Jones. “I love biology and I love education,” said O’Mara, who co-managed “My Life as a Plant” with Jordan Humphrey, a biology major. “After understanding that it would simplify the 12 principles of plant biology, I knew this project was for me. A lot of young kids don’t even realize plants have roots.”

The education foundation agreed to print 3,000 copies of the coloring book for $1 per book, but to provide it free to the public. The book has been requested in North Carolina, Massachusetts and Washington D.C, and is being translated into Spanish, Japanese and Chinese so that it can be distributed around the world.

“I never expected my book to reach an international audience,” says Jones. “This is definitely an honor for me.”

To request free copies of the coloring book, please send email to alan_jones@unc.edu.

Published November 16, 2012.