I go to a fairly small school, so students generally have great relationships with their professors. After a tough semester of rescheduling class due to snow, tenure drama, and lamenting over post-docs, I thought my biology professors deserved something nice. As many of you know or have yet to learn, however, college students are broke. So what to do in this situation?
One lab this semester covered the effects of soil porosity, soil salinity, and light on Brassica rapa. Lab groups measured the height of their plants for a month starting from seeds. At the end of the measuring period, students were to take a fresh mass of their plants as well as a dry mass in order to compare biomass. Dry masses were obtained through massing plants that had been in a drying oven for three days. When the time came to remove plants from the oven, I was surprised to see that many of the plants were still intact, flowers and all.
Something in my mind told me that these plants would make nice bookmarks, so I decided to make them as gifts for my wonderful professors.
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Step 1: "Pre-Lab Protocol"
As I said in the introduction, brassica plants were dried in an oven. Consider this the dorky botanist's method of flower pressing. You could really take any route you'd like with this step with any plant you'd like. I think that actually pressing the plant would make it more flat, but the drying oven was definitely faster. Your call.
Step 2: Materials
You will need:
Your dried plant
Thick paper (cardboard, card stock, etc. I used paper out of a sketch book)
One-sided laminating sheet (size may vary depending on your desired bookmark size)
Knife or scissors
Step 3: Designing and Preparing Backing
I already had an idea of what I wanted to do with my bookmark. I wanted the abbreviated genus and species at the top, followed by the plant in the middle, and the data associated with the plant at the bottom. I figured data would make it more interesting and personal for my professors.
Now to preparation:
Take your paper/card stock and cut it down to your desired size. To make mine more natural looking I made a fold, wet the crease, and ripped it.
Fool around with the placement of your plant. It's important you do this before getting to writing.
Scribble some words down. Genus and species, pertinent data, anything you'd like.
Step 4: Laminating and Trimming
Once your backing is done, place it on the sticky side of the laminating sheet close to the edge. Make sure your plant is exactly where you want it. The next part gets a little tricky.
I know it's not sustainable, but I've had the best luck with this method. You're going to fold the laminating sheet back on itself over the plant. To avoid bubbles, start the fold a few inches away from the bookmark backing. Then slowly bring the sheet to stick to itself and then the backing. (Pro tip: Don't try to make the fold perfect. This causes more bubbles. You can use the scissors/knife to trim and cut away excess lamination.) Once you reach the backing, begin pressing the laminating sheet onto the paper so you can get around all the little nooks of the plant.
Do your best with concave parts. This isn't like putting fondant on a cake where you can get it to fit a certain form. If you can, try to gently push the laminating sheet between the concave plant parts so that it sticks to the paper.
Once you've worked around all the parts of the plant, you can seal the lamination.
Trim the excess lamination. I'd leave a few millimeters extra around the edges to avoid peeling.
Step 5: Use or Gift
A dorky bookmark like this deserves an equally dorky book to be placed in. My bookmark went in Amy Stewart's The Drunken Botanist. If you want to gift it, give it to one of your dorky professors or your best friend who is also a dork.