Following the steps of Hermann Müller

Admittedly, Hermann Müller does not enjoy any top priority of students’ likes nowadays. But nevertheless, his work can be continued and understood in biology lessons these days.

Who was he? Well, he was a teacher at the “Europaschule Ostendorf-Gymnasium Lippstadt” in 1883 (in his days known as “Realschule Lippstadt”). But he was not just a teacher. Teachers at that time also worked as scientists – and he was an important one. He even cooperated closely with Charles Darwin (the one with the evolution of species theory) informing him about his work and discussing his findings. Müller’s interest was to collect and identify flowers and study the pollination of these flowers.

He worked around Lippstadt as well as in South Tyrol, which was the destination of this year’s school trip of the students of the advanced level courses in biology and geography.

With their teachers the group visited the grave of Hermann Müller and saw the hotel on the Stilfser Joch mountain pass road where he died of pneumonia.

But one whole day the students could feel like Hermann Müller. They examined a specific area of 16 m2 and identified all the flowers growing there by using a field guide on plant determination. This must have been the work Hermann Müller also did.

However, our students went further. After having identified the flowers they also had to estimate the number of a particular plant species in the examined area in order to determine specific indicator values named “Ellenbergsche Zeigerwerte”. This provided information on each flower’s preferences, for example indicators for cold or low temperatures, humidity, light, kind of soil (e.g. calcareous). Based on these parameters they analysed the plant community in relation to its specific location. As the students worked in four groups and each group examined a different site the results were quite interesting. Our accompanying geography teacher had told the students before that there was a side of the valley formed by limestone, a sedimentary rock, while the other side was made up of silicate rock. The students thus already expected different results concerning their analysis and this was confirmed by the students’ work.

But that was not all. The students also collected the leaves of some plants and examined them under a microscope to study the sheet structure of the different leaves. And they found out that several plants had stoma on the upper side of the leaf, which normally is quite rare.

All the results were displayed on posters and presented to all the students and teachers on the school trip.

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