Teachers should use Wisconsin Fast Plants resources to support classroom inquiry, not to replace it. It can be tempting with limited time and resources to skip laboratory experiments and simply read about science or do online simulations. However, students need to experience inquiry in order to recognize that results do not always match computer model predictions. Consider participating in the Plants in Space program by growing control plants in your classroom and comparing them to plants being grown in on the International Space Station. Check out classroom activities like Farming in Space that motivate kids with a real problem to solve: supporting long-term space flight.Continue reading Show less
Wisconsin Fast Plants is a website that supports teachers using plants in classroom experiments. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin--Madison have bred fast-growing, low-maintenance Fast Plants that are ideal for classroom use, and this site provides ordering information, videos, unit plans, and digital simulations. Activities are available for elementary through AP Biology students using plants to study topics like ecology, genetics, and life cycles.
Tools on the Wisconsin Fast Plants site are ideal for AP Biology teachers responding to the College Board’s increased emphasis on inquiry-based labs. In the Resources section, the Genetics Decision Tree will help teachers choose which Fast Plants are the best model organism for their experiment. Growing and manipulating the plants requires patience and may be frustrating to students and teachers -- especially when they don’t get the results they expect. Helpfully, the site includes computer simulations that model genetic crosses and ensure students will still have a valuable learning experience even if the plants die.
Elementary teachers looking to integrate science with literacy will love the Reading Green Investigation. Over a 15-day period, students grow their own plants while reading five stories about kids who travel the world and discover what plants need. This investigation gives kids an engaging opportunity to physically participate in scientific inquiry while also prioritizing technical reading and writing. Unfortunately, the site only offers free downloads for the teacher’s guide and student lab notebook; schools will need to purchase story booklets and lab supplies.
Key Standards Supported
Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
Construct and revise an explanation based on evidence for the cycling of matter and flow of energy in aerobic and anaerobic conditions.
Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
Use models to describe that energy in animals’ food (used for body repair, growth, motion, and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun.
From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.
Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.
Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of energy into and out of organisms.
Develop a model to describe how food is rearranged through chemical reactions forming new molecules that support growth and/or release energy as this matter moves through an organism.