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Using Fast Plants® to Teach LS1: Molecules and Organisms: Structures and Processes

Using Fast Plants® to Teach LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes header graphic

Using Fast Plants® to Teach LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

The NGSS disciplinary core ideas tie together lessons across grade bands. With each pass at the topic, students delve deeper into understanding the topic. Below is an example of a series of DCIs relevant to plant biology. By looking at the topics through the lens of activities that use Wisconsin Fast Plants®, we can see how each level builds upon the previous one, and how a single activity or set of related activities can be used to drive multiple related lessons.

Using Wisconsin Fast Plants® to study plant biology allows teachers to work a series of robust activities into a busy class schedule. The plants produce their first flowers around 10 days after planting. Seed pods begin to develop in just 3 weeks and the next generation of seeds are ready to be planted in around 40 days.

Here we will focus on the first major grouping of life science DCIs: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes.

LS1.A Structure and Function

LS1.A focuses on the physical form of plants and the relationship between the structure and the related functions performed by those. Early grades start by looking at the external anatomy and progress to internal anatomy. At the high school level, students begin to explore the relationship between genes and a plant’s form and function.


Grades 1-2:
All organisms have external parts. Plants also have different parts (roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits) that help them survive, grow, and produce more plants.
1-LS1.1
Germinate the seeds in a Petri dish or deli container; observe and study the structures and functions of seeds, roots, shoots, and leaves. Start Wisconsin Fast Plants® Confetti Seeds on black agar plates to clearly visualize root structure. Plant other seeds in peat/vermiculite soil to observe the leaves, flowers, and seed pods develop.

Wisconsin Fast Plants® Confetti Kit Grades K-5. Your students will learn to observe, record facts, and form hypotheses in this fun-filled, hands-on kit. Our "confetti" mix of 8 or more different types of Fast Plants® seeds produces plants varying in height, color, and hairiness. Students measure, graph, name, and describe their own unique plants. Sturdy growing quads allow each student (or group of students) to "own" a confetti garden of 3 to 4 plants.

Wisconsin Fast Plants® Elementary Exploration of Plant Life Cycles Kit This is a complete classroom kit for getting started with Wisconsin Fast Plants®, written for elementary teachers. Includes step-by-step instructions for planting, tending, pollinating, and producing seeds for an offspring generation. All you’ll need is a light source.

Reading Green™ Stories, Pack of 5 Written at a 4th grade reading level, each book contains 5 fictional stories with factual information about plants’ needs. These work well as read aloud books for younger students to follow along with as their Fast Plants® grow. Great for integrating literacy and science.
Grades 3-5:
Plants have both internal and external structures that serve various functions in growth, survival, behavior, and reproduction.
4-LS1.1
Investigate and record the changes that occur through the Fast Plants® life cycle and compare to other organisms' life cycles. Perform a dissection of a flower to see the internal parts.
Grade 12:
All cells contain genetic information in the form of DNA molecules. Genes are regions in the DNA that contain the instructions that code for the formation of proteins.
HS-LS3.1
Extract DNA from Fast Plants® and amplify regions of the genome that code for the anthocyanin gene and compare expected genotypes to the phenotypes. Identifying the Mutation in Non-purple stem Wisconsin Fast Plants® Advanced—For experienced high school and college classes; requires some technical skill. Explore the connection between Mendelian genetics and molecular biology through the analysis of the mutation responsible for the non-purple stem trait in Fast Plants®. Students predict phenotype and genotype for stem color in the F2 generation of a monohybrid cross and propose an explanation as to why the anl allele leads to a non-purple stem phenotype, whereas the ANL allele leads to the purple stem phenotype.

LS1.B: Growth and Development of Organisms

LS1.B focuses on the growth and development of the structures observed in LS1.A. These DCIs can be addressed as separate lessons during the same set of activities. Students begin by recognizing that plants grow and change and then reproduce and die. In the middle grades they look more specifically at the mechanisms of plant pollination and reproduction.


Grade 1-2:
Plants and animals have predictable characteristics at different stages of development. Plants and animals grow and change. Adult plants and animals can have young.
1-LS1.2
Harvest and plant seeds to observe the offspring generation and compare to parents. Wisconsin Fast Plants® Elementary Exploration of Plant Life Cycles Kit This is a complete classroom kit for getting started with Wisconsin Fast Plants® written for elementary teachers. Includes step-by-step instructions for planting, tending, pollinating, and producing seeds for an offspring generation. All you’ll need is a light source.

Reading Green™ Stories, Pack of 5 Written at a 4th grade reading level, each book contains 5 fictional stories with factual information about plants’ needs. These work well as read aloud books for younger students to follow along with as their Fast Plants® grow. Great for integrating literacy and science.
Grades 3-5:
Reproduction is essential to the continued existence of every kind of organism. Plants and animals have unique and diverse life cycles that include being born (sprouting in plants), growing, developing into adults, reproducing, and eventually dying.
3-LS1.1
Investigate and record the changes that occur through the Fast Plants® life cycle and compare to other organisms' life cycles.
Grades 6-8:
Plants reproduce in a variety of ways, sometimes depending on animal behavior and specialized features for reproduction.
MS-LS1.4

Organisms reproduce either sexually or asexually and transfer their genetic information to their offspring.
MS-LS3.2
Dissect a flower, pollinate and observe seed development, and research flower structures and their functions in reproduction.

Observe and quantify the variation that occurs in traits because Fast Plants® result from sexual reproduction (e.g., height, number of leaves, number of days to flower, and stem and leaf color).
Wisconsin Fast Plants® Growth, Development, and Reproduction Advanced Classroom Kit This is a complete classroom kit for getting started with Wisconsin Fast Plants®, written for the middle/high school level teacher. Includes step-by-step instructions for planting, tending, pollinating, and producing seeds for an offspring generation. All you will need is a light source.

LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms

Students begin by examining what plants need to survive and what effects those conditions can have on growth and reproduction. In higher grades, the students narrow in on the specifics of those conditions, progressing from examining light vs. dark, conditions to looking at a range of colored light and their effects on photosynthesis.


Grades 3-5:
Plants acquire their material for growth chiefly from air and water.
5-LS1.1
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 versus dark conditions
  • Water (allow 1 or 2 plants to dry out as evidence that plants need water)
What Do Plants Need to Grow? A Carolina Essentials Investigation This is a guided inquiry activity for students to examine the phenomenon of plant growth. Students manipulate the amount of sunlight and water to which Wisconsin Fast Plant® seed discs are exposed. They count the number of seeds that sprout daily, for four days and then use the data to draw conclusions and explain what resources plants need to grow.

Wisconsin Fast Plants® Introduction to Producers in Food Chains Kit For a class of 32 students. Introduce the concept that light is a basic need for plants, as well as the concept of a food chain. In this inquiry activity, students conduct a simple experiment, growing Fast Plants® with and without light.
Grades 9-12:
The process of photosynthesis converts light energy to stored chemical energy by converting carbon dioxide plus water into sugars plus released oxygen.
HS-LS1.5
Measure how light intensity and/or color impact rates of photosynthesis. Wisconsin Fast Plants®: Standard Seed Disk Set Accelerate Wisconsin Fast Plants® studies with these handy seed disks. Seed disks are 8 cm in diameter and have seeds "sewn" in dissolvable paper disks. The Standard Seed Disk Set comes in an 8-pack with 16 to 18 seeds per disk. Each disk is conveniently labeled and packaged in an envelope.

Color Filter Set, 5-Piece Ideal for light experiments, this 5-color filter set (red, yellow, orange, blue, and green) made from flexible material is easy to cut and easy to use. Each filter measures 4 x 4".

LS1.D: Information Processing

LS1.D is primarily focused on animal’s responses to their environments, but in the early grades it is important to emphasize that plants, as well as animals, respond to stimuli.


Grade 1-2:
Plants respond to some external inputs. Suggested 1-LS1-1 Activity
Germinate WFP in Petri dishes that are set upright to demonstrate the effect of gravity on plant growth after germination. Students predict what will happen when the dish is rotated 90 degrees and observe the results.
Students can be asked to observe how plants grow towards a light source and be asked to make predictions about what will happen which the direction of the light source is changed.
Wisconsin Fast Plants®: Standard Seed Disk Set Accelerate Wisconsin Fast Plants® studies with these handy seed disks. Seed disks are 8 cm in diameter and have seeds "sewn" in dissolvable paper disks. The Standard Seed Disk Set comes in an 8-pack with 16 to 18 seeds per disk. Each disk is conveniently labeled and packaged in an envelope.


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