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Let Wisconsin Fast Plants® Grow on You!

Hedi Baxter Lauffer, PhD
Wisconsin Fast Plants® Program
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Former High School Biology and Physical Science Teacher

January 2017


Introduction

Wisconsin Fast Plants® are so captivating to watch as they grow and develop that even the toughest-to-reach students become engaged and attached to them. Time after time I saw students I least expected to be interested in anything “science” come to my class during a unit with Fast Plants® and head straight to the grow lights to check on their plants. If you think plants are boring, think again. Try teaching with Wisconsin Fast Plants®. I know you’ll be glad you did.


A speedy life cycle

The Fast Plants® life cycle is so quick that just 14 days after planting seeds, students experience firsthand how plants reproduce by watching their own plant develop buds that open into bright yellow flowers. Kindergarten through high school students (and college students, too!) smile and learn when they “fly” their bee sticks from plant to plant to pollinate them. They can see the pollen on their bees and watch seeds develop inside the elongating pistils of their plant’s flowers. No reading on life cycles, video, or simulation can come close to the experience of learning by growing.


If your class can't spare 2 weeks for growing plants, students can observe Fast Plants® seedlings germinated in a petri dish in just 72 hours. Carolina Biological Supply Company has Wisconsin Fast Plants® seeds available in seed disks—petri dish-sized paper disks that are embedded with seeds for easy planting in soil or germinating in a petri dish. Seed disks are available for the standard variety of Wisconsin Fast Plants® and several of the specially bred genetic inheritance stocks.


Fast Plants® and genetics

Wisconsin Fast Plants® genetic stocks show the inheritance pattern that results when a parent homozygous for a dominant trait (like purple stem) is crossed with a parent homozygous for a recessive trait (non-purple stem, in this example). It's genetics you can easily observe, even in 72-hour-old seedlings!

One of the great characteristics of Wisconsin Fast Plants® is that they don't self-pollinate (unlike many flowering plants), so every Fast Plant had 2 different parents (sexual reproduction without the complication of self-pollination). This means that students can actually calculate, and explain, the ratio of dominant to recessive traits that they observe, much like Mendel did. It is no surprise that students are far more invested in figuring out what their own 3:1 or 9:3:3:1 ratios mean than studying a textbook or worksheet on Punnett squares.


Fast Plants® for every level

In many school districts, Wisconsin Fast Plants® materials are a part of the science curriculum in elementary, middle, and high school biology and environmental science courses. Elementary Fast Plants® investigations typically integrate strong English language arts elements with mathematics instruction about measurement, units, and data representation and interpretation. Continuing into middle and high school levels with Fast Plants® investigations can foster 3-D teaching—weaving together opportunities for learning the practices of science and engineering with crosscutting concepts and disciplinary core ideas.

Don't worry about your green thumb. Wisconsin Fast Plants® materials have been tested and refined by classroom teachers for nearly 30 years, and the support team at Carolina is just a call away. Plus, the Wisconsin Fast Plants® section at Carolina.com is packed with helpful tips and resources.

Ready to get started? See the following tables for recommended kits and investigations at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.


Recommended kits and investigations for K–12

Elementary School         Middle School         High School


Recommended kits and investigations for elementary school (K–5)

Kit

Description

A. Wisconsin Fast Plants® Elementary Exploration of Plant Life Cycles Kit (item #158973)

A complete classroom kit for getting started with Wisconsin Fast Plants®. Includes step-by-step instructions for planting, tending, pollinating, and producing seed. Kit includes seeds and planting materials for 8 student groups. A light source is required (sold separately).

B. Wisconsin Fast Plants® Reading Green™: Investigating the Life Cycle and Growth of Flowering Plants Kit (item #158696)

Reading Green™ Stories, Pack of 5 (item #158698)

A complete classroom kit for growing Wisconsin Fast Plants® with lessons that integrate English language arts, mathematics, and science. Includes seeds and planting materials for 8 student groups. A light source is required (sold separately).

Kit also includes 5 copies of a student reader, written specifically to accompany the germination, growth, and development of Fast Plants®. The fictional Reading Green™ stories contain factual information about plants’ needs, and feature suggestions and student pages for making connections to mathematics lessons. You can extend the kit with a pack of 5 additional Reading Green™ stories (item #158698, sold separately).

 


Investigations That Students Can Conduct with the Recommended Kits for Elementary School (K–5)

NGSS Supported

Kit A: Grow Standard Wisconsin Fast Plants® from seed, making and recording observations.
Germinate seeds in a petri dish or deli container; observe and study the structures and functions of seeds, roots, shoots, and leaves.
Study flower and bee structures and their functions in pollination; design a pollination device that transfers pollen like a bee (see Bee-ing an Engineer lessons).
Observe and record the changes that occur through the Fast Plants® life cycle and compare to other organisms' life cycles.
Harvest and plant seeds to observe the offspring generation and compare to parents.

K-LS1-1
K-ESS2-2
K-ESS3-1
1-LS1-1, 2
1-LS3-1
2-LS2-1, 2
3-LS3-1, 2
3-LS4-2
4-LS1-1

Kit B: Germinate Standard Wisconsin Fast Plants® or grow them in soil as part of controlled experiments to learn about plants' needs, investigating environmental factors such as
Light (light vs. dark conditions)
Moisture (allow 1 or 2 plants to dry out or try to germinate seeds without water as evidence that plants need water)
Fertilizer (no fertilizer or too much fertilizer vs. recommended amount)
Build on experimental evidence with information about plants' needs in readings and other media (e.g., Reading Green™ stories).

3-LS3-1
5-PS3-1
5-LS1-1
5-LS2-1


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Recommended kits and investigations for middle school (6–8)


Kit

Description

A. Wisconsin Fast Plants® Growth, Development, and Reproduction Advanced Student Kit (item #158700)

A complete classroom kit for getting started with Wisconsin Fast Plants®, written for the middle or high school teacher. Includes step-by-step instructions for planting, tending, pollinating, and producing seed for an offspring generation (optional). A light source is required (sold separately).

B. Wisconsin Fast Plants® Who’s the Father? Investigating Genetics Monohybrid (1 trait) Kit (item #158963)

This kit includes everything needed for students to use observations and plant breeding to figure out why non-purple stem plants occur infrequently in Fast Plants® offspring generations compared to purple stem plants. All materials and seeds for the parent plants and first generation offspring are included. A light source is required (sold separately).

 


Investigations That Students Can Conduct with the Recommended Kits for Middle School (6–8)

NGSS Supported

Kit A: Grow Standard Wisconsin Fast Plants® and record observations and data in controlled experiments to learn about the role plants play in the cycling of matter, flow of energy, and interdependence in ecosystems. Variables to test could include:
Light level—High light levels vs. low light levels and dark conditions
Nutrient availability—No fertilizer or too much vs. recommended amount
Soil types—Recommended soil-less mix vs. sandy soil, clay, etc.
Population density—Densely planted Fast Plants® (crowded population) vs. Fast Plants® growing with ample room

MS-LS1-6
MS-LS1-7
MS-LS2-1
MS-LS2-3
MS-LS2-4

Kit B: Grow Wisconsin Fast Plants® varieties bred for a heritable, observable phenotypic trait (e.g., non-purple stem x purple stem) to flowering or through their full life cycle. Observe and record quantitative and qualitative data. Investigations may include:
Dissecting a flower, pollinating and observing seed development, and researching flower structures and their functions in reproduction.
Observing and quantifying the variation that occurs in traits because Fast Plants® result from sexual reproduction (e.g., height, number of leaves, number of days to flower, stem and leaf color).
Harvesting and planting seeds to observe the offspring generation and comparing it to parents.
Observing dominant/recessive patterns of inheritance in offspring that have a different phenotypic trait (e.g., stem color) than their parents.

MS-LS1-4
MS-LS3-2

 


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Recommended kits and investigations for high school (9–12)


Kit

Description

A. Wisconsin Fast Plants® Growth, Development, and Reproduction Advanced Student Kit (item #158700)

A complete classroom kit for getting started with Wisconsin Fast Plants®, written for the middle or high school level teacher. Includes step-by-step instructions for planting, tending, pollinating, and producing seed for an offspring generation (optional). A light source is required (sold separately).

B. Wisconsin Fast Plants® Who’s the Father? Investigating Genetics Monohybrid (1 trait) Kit (item #158963)

Wisconsin Fast Plants® Who’s the Father? Investigating Genetics Dihybrid (2 traits) Kit (item #158964)

Both of these kits include everything needed for students to use observations, data analysis, and plant breeding to figure out why non-purple stem plants (and yellow-green leaf plants) occur infrequently in Fast Plants® offspring generations compared to purple stem (and green leaf) plants. All materials and seeds for the parent plants and first generation offspring are included. A light source is required (sold separately).

C. Wisconsin Fast Plants® 72-Hour Monohybrid Genetics Kit (item #158940)

Similar to the Who's the Father? kits described above, this monohybrid (1 trait) alternative kit has students germinate Wisconsin Fast Plants® seeds without using soil and observe the stem color of 3-day-old seedlings. Can be used successfully with natural window light or a lamp containing a compact fluorescent bulb (24-hour light is not necessary for this activity).

 


Investigations That Students Can Conduct with the Recommended Kits for High School (9–12)

NGSS Supported

Kit A: Grow Standard Wisconsin Fast Plants® and record observations and data in controlled experiments to learn about the cycling of matter, flow of energy, interdependence, and carrying capacity in ecosystems. Investigations may include:
Testing how varied nutrient availability impacts Fast Plants® growth and development.
Testing environmental stresses, such as acidity or salinity, on Fast Plants® reproductive success.
Measuring how light intensity and/or leaf type impact rates of photosynthesis.
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Grow a class population of Standard Fast Plants®, and then develop selection criteria for a particular phenotype that students can breed to increase. Select and inter-pollinate only a few parent plants to try to increase the trait's frequency in the offspring population. Use statistics to determine the impact. Supports AP® Biology Lab 1.

 

HS-LS2-1

 

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HS-LS4-2
HS-LS4-3

Kit B or C: Grow specialized Wisconsin Fast Plants® seed stocks that were bred for 1 or 2 heritable, observable phenotypic traits. Germinate seedlings and observe variation and heritable traits in just 72 hours, or grow plants to flowering or through their full life cycle. Observe and record quantitative and qualitative data. Investigations may include:
Observing, quantifying, and explaining the phenotypic variation that occurs when dominant vs. recessive alleles (that regulate easily observable traits, such as stem or leaf color) are passed from parents to offspring.
Using statistics to analyze data collected from Fast Plants®, and explaining easily observable, dominant/recessive inheritance patterns.

HS-LS1-5
HS-LS2-4
HS-LS3-1
HS-LS3-2
HS-LS3-3


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Additional resources


AP® is a trademark registered and/or owned by the College Board®, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, these products.

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