This comprehensive Open Source lesson plan is designed for Kindergarten through Middle School level students to learn about life cycles, plants needs, and plant structures & their functions through hands-on investigations with Wisconsin Fast Plants. Depending on the grade level, students engage at an appropriate depth with developing models and constructing arguments that plants have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction. This lesson is available as a Google Doc in the Gather, Reason, Communicate instructional model. You may copy the lesson Doc to your own Drive and edit/adapt for your own use--it is shared by the Fast Plants Program as an Open Education Resource" therefore, you are free to use and adapt for noncommercial purposes, provided you attribute the Wisconsin Fast Plants Programs website (www.fastplants.org) as your source and share openly (for noncommercial purposes) any materials you develop with ours.
Wisconsin Fast Plants Program
This is a page on the Fast Plants website, describing the AstroPlants variety of Fast Plants (Brassica rapa). This page includes suggestions for investigations and teaching applications using this seed variety.
Download this complete set of lessons for an elementary, NGSS-aligned inquiry that foregrounds engineering practices. During the days that are supported by this investigation, students observe flowers on their 14 to 16 day old Fast Plants along with bee structures, learning to connect how the shape of a structure is related to its function. Then, students make and/or use bee sticks to conduct pollination. Finally, students look closely at how pollen is carried on bee bodies and where pollen moves within the flower as concrete examples of the relationship between structure and function. Then, students have the opportunity to use a wide variety of materials to design a solution to a problem (no bees). The solution will be a simple model that mimics the function of a bee in pollinating plants.Complete kits are available from Carolina Biological for this investigation, or everything to grow Fast Plants can be built or obtained locally, using the instructions available on the Fast Plants website. This stand-alone inquiry is a subset of lessons from a comprehensive life cycle unit that is NGSS-aligned, titled "Investigating Plants Needs with Wisconsin Fast Plants" (also available in the Fast Plants digital library).
This blog post from the Fast Plants Team addresses the question "Are Wisconsin Fast Plants Genetically Engineered Plants?". This post describes the origins of Fast Plants (they are the result of conventional plant breeding, not genetic engineering), defines terms related to plant breeding and genetic engineering, and describes the selection criteria that led to the Wisconsin Fast Plant.
Read this blog post for background information about the relationship between the biological environment and life processes and systems in Fast Plants. Growing healthy Fast Plants is easy if you understand how the environment can affect growth and development. Three broad categories of environmental factors influence how an individual plant matures through its life cycle: 1) the physical environment, 2) the chemical environment, 3) the biological environment. Based on this information about standard conditions for optimal Fast Plants growth, one could easily design a wide variety of controlled experiments. Questions naturally arise while reading about optimal conditions that could be investigated by designing an experiment to how varying one condition affects growth, development and/or reproduction. This blog post is part of a series explaining how key environmental factors–physical, chemical, and biological–can impact the growth of Wisconsin Fast Plants.
This blog post from the Fast Plants team addresses the question "can bee sticks sting?" (no, bee sticks cannot sting) and provides information on the use of bee sticks for pollination of Fast Plants in the classroom.
Read this blog post for background information about the relationship between the chemical environment and life processes and systems in Fast Plants. Growing healthy Fast Plants is easy if you understand how the environment can affect growth and development. Three broad categories of environmental factors influence how an individual plant matures through its life cycle: 1) the physical environment, 2) the chemical environment, 3) the biological environment. Based on this information about standard conditions for optimal Fast Plants growth, one could easily design a wide variety of controlled experiments. Questions naturally arise while reading about optimal conditions that could be investigated by designing an experiment to how varying one condition affects growth, development and/or reproduction. This blog post is part of a series explaining how key environmental factors “physical, chemical, and biological" can impact the growth of Wisconsin Fast Plants.
This blog post from the Wisconsin Fast Plants website describes the observation of plant hairs (trichomes) for conducting a selective breeding experiment (such as in AP Biology investigations). The number of hairs is variable in Fast Plants seed varieties, and selection for or against plant hairiness is heritable, with measureable gain/loss from selection in offspring generations. This post describes strategies for identifying and counting plant hairs, including instructions for use of free ImageJ software.
This blog post from the Wisconsin Fast Plants features open source educator resources, developed in 2023. These resources support the teaching of genetics concepts with tools focused on a Dihybrid Inheritance Study. This study provides a two-week approach for observing three generations of plant seedlings, germinated in Petri dishes. Observation of these three generations provides a model for inheritance of two traits found in Fast Plants seed varieties: Non-Purple Stem and Rosette-Dwarf. While observing traits in seedlings, students are guided to discuss norms for data collection and generate an evidence based model that explains the observed traits. This post is primarily a point of reference, giving background information about the Dihybrid Inheritance Study activity and providing links to free downloadable resources for teaching in your classroom. Resources include slideshows with photos of seedlings and discussion prompts, an implementation calendar, and handouts for preparation of Petri dishes in the classroom.
This blog post from the Wisconsin Fast Plants website features an NGSS-aligned Open Source Lesson Plan for Investigating Ecosystem Dynamics with Fast Plants. The featured lesson plan is available to be downloaded and edited as needed via Google Drive. The investigation challenges students to gather background information and design/implement an ecosystem experiment, modeling different growing environments with Fast Plants. The experiments provide evidence which students can use to develop claims about the effects of different environments on populations.
This blog post on the Wisconsin Fast Plants website features the recently released Wisconsin Fast Plants genetics simulations, powered by ExploreLearning Gizmos. Sign up for a free account on the Gizmo website (https://www.explorelearning.com/index.cfm?method=Controller.dspFreeAccount) for free access to two simulations that were collaboratively developed by the teams at Explore Learning and the Wisconsin Fast Plants Program of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. These simulations replace those previously available on our website that were developed nearly two decades ago and no longer function on modern operating systems. Fast Plants Gizmos were created as a collaboration between ExploreLearning and the Wisconsin Fast Plants Program of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They were designed to support many of the experiments that students can do using Fast Plants seeds and plants. By using these Gizmos in combination with firsthand experiences growing Fast Plants, students can compare simulated growth, development and reproduction with observations of living Fast Plants. In addition, the Gizmos genetic simulation makes it possible for students to gather data from a significantly larger plant population than is typically grown in classrooms. These Gizmos also stand alone, supporting topics both in plant life cycles and Mendelian genetics and can be used by any student. Simulation, Simulations, Genetics, Inheritance
This blog post from the Fast Plants Team addresses the question "Do Fast Plants need Vernalization to Flower?". This post describes the concept of vernalization (requiring a cold period to induce flowering) and its role in regulating the development of flower structures in flowering plants. Some Fast Plants relatives in the Brassica genus require vernalization to induce flowering" however, Fast Plants do not require vernalization and will flower at about 14 days after planting when grown in recommended conditions.
This blog post shared on the Wisconsin Fast Plants website is a guest post by Daniel Murphy, author of the weekly blog Awkward Botany. In this post, Daniel shares his firsthand account of his experiences growing plants and becoming "a bona fide plant nerd." This post is a great example of the value in letting learners know plants by growing them. Thank you Daniel for letting us share this story!
This blog post on the Fast Plants website shares content from podcaster, Matt Candeias, host of the In Defense of Plants podcast. In an interview with Mary Williams of the American Society of Plant Biologists, Matt discusses the important connection fostered between physical experiences and development of important mental skills.
This blog post from the Wisconsin Fast Plants features open source educator resources, developed in 2023. These NGSS- and Ag-Standards aligned resources, named Investigating Brassicas Around the World with Fast Plants include a full lesson plan with supporting plant breeding activities, video about Brassica origins, and supplemental reading materials. This investigation is centered around the phenomenon question: "How is it that so many plants classified as Brassica look and taste different?". In this investigation, students are guided to gather evidence and develop claims to answer the phenomenon question. This post is primarily a point of reference, giving background information about the Investigating Brassicas Around the World lesson and providing links to free downloadable resources for teaching this lesson in your classroom.
This blog post from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Wisconsin Fast Plants, describes an investigation that educators can implement in the classroom to facilitate students' learning about variation and natural selection through firsthand observations and hands-on data collection in a very short time. The post offers an abbreviated example of how to conduct a classroom investigation with the Fast Plants Polycot seed variety. It covers topics like the benefits of using the Polycot seed variety in the classroom (easy to notice trait variations, large sample populations in a small classroom space), selecting traits for students to experiment with and observe, designing a selection investigation, observing and recording polycot generations data, and analyzing data.
This blog post from the Wisconsin Fast Plants website is a guest post by classroom teacher, Julie LaConte, of Rossman School in Creve Coeur, MO. In this post, Julie describes her experiences researching, preparing for, and teaching with Fast Plants in her classroom. Thank you for sharing your experiences, Julie!
This blog post by the Fast Plants Team provides a materials list and instructions for a Do-It-Yourself, LED Grow Light that is ideal for Fast Plants growth. This grow light uses cost-effective materials that can be obtained online and from a local hardware store. The light is easy to construct, powerful, and height adjustable, which helps simplify the goal of keeping your grow light close to your developing Fast Plants. This post also explains what it means to provide optimal lighting for seedlings and describes why it is important to understand light intensity and its effect on growing plants.
This blog post from the Wisconsin Fast Plants website describes the value of using Fast Plants as a model organism for biological and environmental investigations. This post is primarily an index of Fast Plants resources, providing prompts for teaching goals and suggesting Fast Plants kits (distributed by Carolina Biological) that can be used to accomplish these teaching goals.
This blog post from the Wisconsin Fast Plants website provides an overview and list of resources for teaching about heredity and inheritance patterns with Fast Plants seed varieties. This blog is primarily a point of reference for other Fast Plants teaching resources, but includes specific detail about monohybrid seed varieties with punnet squares. Further, links are included to video walkthroughs for Monohybrid (in soil), Monohybrid Seed Disks, and Dihybrid (in soil) investigations.