STOCKSCH 100 – Botany for Gardeners Online

Do you know the difference between a common, white (Irish) potato….. and a sweet potato?  Click here or take the class and find out!

 July 9 – August 17


4 Credits (satisfies the Biological Sciences BS-GenED for UMass Amherst students)

This is a class on the science of plant growth, using world food production, our favorite foods and backyard gardening as the framework for study whenever possible.  We will look at what plants are made of (plant anatomy), how they interact with other plants and animals (ecology), how the environment affects plants (plant physiology), and where they came from over time (evolution).  Most important perhaps, we will think together about our relationship with plants in order to better understand our place in the world.

This class is offered in January (4 weeks) and Summer (6 weeks) terms through UMass Online.  There are PowerPoint lessons and videos, open-book exams, quizzes covering the Botany of Desire text, a required journal post each week, as well as optional online discussions (for extra credit).  You are invited to do this class at your own pace any time of the day.

Instructor:  John M. Gerber, Professor
Office:        308 Bowditch Hall; Univ. of Massachusetts
Contact: or 413-545-5301 (emergencies)
Web Page
Facebook:  Just Food Now in Western Massachusetts

Format:  This class is a lecture format including a PowerPoint with notes (sample here), a related video (sample here) and most include an optional reading in the textbook Botany for Gardeners.  You will also read Botany of Desire and take quizzes on the four main chapters of this engaging book.   You may take the Botany of Desire quizzes at your own pace up to 3 times.  Exams are all open-book but are limited to 90 minutes.

Technology: According to UMass Online, in order to take this course you must:

  • have access to a personal computer (Mac or Windows)
  • be familiar with basic computer skills
  • be connected to the internet
  • have an e-mail program and account
  • have at least a 56 kbps modem
  • have a Java capable browser (Netscape or Internet Explorer)

NOTE: If you have any problems with technology, please contact the UMass Online Tech Support office for help.

Required Textbook: Pollan, M. 2002. Botany of Desire: a Plant’s Eye View of the World.  This book is often available at the local library and may be purchased new or used from on-line booksellers.  The chapters will also be available free to download in pdf format on the class web page.

Suggested Textbook: Capon, Brian. 2010.  Botany for Gardeners. Timber Press, Portland, OR.  This book is available from online booksellers.  The older, 2005 edition is just fine and can be purchased on line very cheaply.  Here are the pages from the text.

Grading:  There are four unit exams and you will have 90 minutes to take each exam.  Exam questions will come from PowerPoints, videos, as well as the required text (Botany of Desire).  No test questions come from the suggested text, Botany for Gardeners, unless the material was also introduced in the PowerPoints or videos.  Exams may be taken anytime during the class.

There are 4 quizzes covering the 4 main chapters of Botany of Desire (required text).  The total of the 4 quizzes will add up to 100 points and equal one unit exam.  Quizzes may be taken at any time during the class.

There are four required journal posts covering anything from gardening to sustainable living. The total of the four posts will add up to 100 points and equal one unit exam.   Journal posts are scheduled.  Late posts will lose one point for each day late.

Your final grade will be based on 600 points, including 4 unit exams (100 points each), 4 quizzes (25 points each), and 4 journal posts (25 points each).

In addition, up to 5 extra credit points may be earned by participating in the online discussions (5 posts = 1 extra credit point).  Grades will be given using these ranges:

A    = 95-100
A-   = 90-94
B+   =87-89
B    = 83-86
B-   = 80-82
C+   = 77-79
C    = 73-76
C-   = 70-72
D+  = 67-69
D    = 63-66
F     <62


This class is part of the 15-credit Sustainable Food and Farming Online Certificate Program.   If you would like to register for the Certificate program, you may apply here.  For more information, contact Dr. John M. Gerber at;

More Online Classes in Sustainable Food and Farming

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