Classroom Planting for the Future

Written by: CEHD Communications Staff
Post date: November 02, 2009

They are all around us-in our houses, our yards and on our dinner plates. But we often overlook these helpful green organisms known as plants.

And now they also have a classroom use.

Plants are an integral part of the ongoing project "Plant IT: Careers, Cases and Collaboration," says Carol Stuessy, co-principal investigator and associate professor of science education and technology in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture. The principal and co-principal investigators are Claire Hemingway of the Botanical Society of America and Ethel Stanley of Bioquest Curriculum Consortium.

Plant IT is designed to integrate the use and study of plants into high school science classrooms, as well as utilize technology in innovative ways to enhance teaching and learning.

This three-year project receives funding from the Botanical Society of America and the National Science Foundation.

During the summer of 2009, 16 high school teachers came to Texas A&M University for a two-week workshop. They learned about plants, plant science and scientific thinking, and they received instructional training in investigative case-based learning using plants.

"Laboratory experiences requiring living organisms can use plants just as well as animals to teach the important scientific concepts covered in a typical high school or introductory college biology course," Stuessy says.

The workshops have utilized FastPlants, which are plants that have been bred to have short life cycles. They also have used Arabidopsis, a plant that is commonly used in genetics research; plants from the Texas A&M greenhouses; and typical houseplants.

"Different types of plants are selected for experimental work because of certain features that make them ideal laboratory organisms for study," Stuessy says.

In the second week of the summer workshops, 24 high school students came to campus to learn from the teachers who received the training. These students experienced college life, interviewed plant biologists and graduate students, and learned about plant careers.

"Even though students' everyday lives are filled with plants, they do not think of plants as a vehicle for providing them with rewarding, interesting careers," Stuessy says. "In the experiences we provide our summer workshop students, we make sure they are exposed to a diversity of plant-related careers."

"We hope that exposure to a broad range of careers will increase students' appreciation of the role of plants in their world, and for those students who find plants interesting, we want them to realize the wonderful opportunities for fulfilling careers in plant biology," she adds.