Grow System for Observing Genetic Traits

Grant Applicant
Katie Santos
School Site
Sierra Expeditionary Learning School
Grant Category
Mathematics & Science
Grant Date
Description (10 points)

As part of our life science expedition, we are learning about heritable traits. We study the history of Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics. As part of our study, we are using Wisconsin Fast Plants to replicate his work with peas. These amazing plants can grow and produce seeds to be planted again in approximately 40 days under the right conditions. That means that we can grow 3 generations of plants in a semester. The students will be able to observe the life-cycle of plants as well as the difference between genotypes and phenotypes. In the third generation they will be able to observe the probability of a recessive trait appearing when the parent plants carry both a dominant and recessive allele.

We would like to purchase two grow boxes from Carolina Biological that come with an LED lighting system to quickly grow plants. Along with the grow boxes, we would like seeds from Wisconsin Fast Plants which come with dominant and recessive traits, so that we can separately grow them in the two boxes and then cross pollinate them to see the probability of the phenotypes. 

Benefits of Program (10 points)

Giving students real experience with science always outweighs reading about someone else doing it. This project will give students the life experience that genetic traits really can be manipulated by humans. It will give them experience with growing plants and pollinating as if they were the bees. The students will be charged with the responsibility to care for the plants and document their growth and change. This supports mastery of many of the NGSS Life Science standards in a way that teaches the scientific method and strengths observation and data collection skills. 

Success of Program (10 points)

This year My 7th graders and I attempted to  build our own hydroponic grow box using recycled plastic bottles. We have had mixed results in our plants due to the lighting I had purchased with our school fundraiser money. The lights have a very narrow beam and only the plants in the middle grew well. We moved plants around to share the light and noticed changes in the growth rate. This caused the plants to flower at different times and with varying success.  Through observation, the students came to the conclusion that with a better lighting and storage system, our plants would have been able to yield more seeds for the next round. While this was all an interesting process and learning experience, I would love to take the suggestions from the students and have a better system in place for next year.

With this new system in place, we will be able to breed three generations of plants in one semester while observing the probability of inherited traits. Not only will we be able to observe the heredity, but we will have flowers growing in our class to observe the anatomy of a plant. We can use them to explore taxonomy and discuss how scientists categorize organisms. 

In a recent survey I gave to my students, they commented that they enjoyed learning through the hands on activities we have been doing. They feel they learn the best when the learning is combine with an experience. This crew has been using their observation and problem solving skills to suggest how to make the growth of the plants more successful. As we grow and learn, I hope to be able to walk a class through 3 generations of genetic inheritance in a semester.

Implementation (10 points)

These two grow boxes, that come complete with lights, will be used in the 7th grade classroom during the second semester. We will plant “Wisconsin Fast Plants” which grow from seeds into flowers and finally produce plantable seeds, all in 40 days. We will plant flowers with purple, hairy stems in one box and flowers with green, smooth stems in the other. The students will cross pollinate the flowers and grow the flowers to maturity. When the seeds are ready to be harvested, we will plant the cross bread seeds. Theses seeds should all show the phenotype of the dominant green, smooth stems. After cross pollinating and harvesting a second crop, we will use the seeds to show the probability is 25% recessive and 75% dominant. This will mimic what we learned from Gregor Mendel and in Punnett Squares.

Can you share this grant with your grade level or subject team?

The grow boxes can be used throughout the school in other grade levels as they study how plants grow. Younger grade levels study how we get food, and they will also be able to use the grow boxes to grow their own miniature farm.

The grow boxes are easy to store and can be used year after year as 7th graders learn genetic inheritance. The only part that will need replenishing will be the starter seeds and soil. This is the less expensive part and could be purchased from other funding sources. There are many lessons that can be learned from growing plants and these grow boxes will make that possible in Truckee where we typically have a short growing season in the school year.
Amount Funded
Individual Budget Items(s)
$255 - Plant Light House with LED $127.50 x2
$15 - Wisconsin Fast Plants Purple Harry Seeds 50 pack
$15 - Wisconsin Fast Plants Non-Purple, Non-Harry Seeds 50 Pack
$36 - Wisconsin Fast Plants F1 Seeds 200 Pack
Budget Notes

All items are purchased through Carolina Biological.

Other funding sources

We used our class fund raiser money for the first attempt at buying grow lights. There are other funds to provide seeds in the future.