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The Great Nueva Zoom-School Plant Project 
Judith Worrall, middle school writing teacher & communications team member

Eighth-grade biology students have dived straight into an exciting study of genetic variation. The eighth-grade science team of Tom McFadden and Brad Hoge wanted the students to have a real experience of hands-on science to begin the new school year. 

One of the major themes of eighth-grade science is to understand humanity’s relationship with the living world. So, the teachers asked their students to grow Wisconsin Fast Plants to discover for themselves why plants produce offspring with variation. This led to a discussion about how humanity has modified species for food and other purposes. 

The students followed specific and detailed instructions for their plants to grow. They quickly learned that any variations in the process would have an effect on the speed of their plants’ development. 

Eighth grader Max F. left his plants growing in a soap medium which had a dramatic effect on his plants. 

“Although my mistake meant my experiment slowed down, this was a great project,” he said. “It allowed me to experience the real nature of a physical class project over a remote learning platform while giving me the ability to learn from my own mistakes and keep going.”  

Teacher Tom suggested that the remote learning meant the students had more control over the whole process than they would have had in the classroom, as they were responsible for their plants for 24 hours a day.

“Wisconsin Fast Plants provided an amazing hands-on opportunity for Nueva students to do a full round of artificial selection from seed to flower to seed to plant in about a month,” Tom said. “They seemed like the perfect way to make remote learning tangible, messy, and fun.” 

The science teachers offered the students independent opportunities to explore other science-related questions as part of this experience, from considering the requirements of life to experimental design and statistical analysis. 

“With shelter-in-place, some of us have become bakers and some of us have been gardeners,” seventh-grade student Colin C. said. “In biology, we are growing rapid-cycling Brassica at home to learn about genetic variation, natural and artificial selection, and pollination. My plant grew more than 11 eleven inches in less than two weeks and also flowered!” 

Eighth grader Terry D. raved about the experiment, “I've been really enjoying growing my fast plants. The process of selecting certain plants to continue to grow and pollinate has been super interesting, and they've grown way taller and faster than I expected! I can't wait to continue into generation two, and see what mine and my classmates’ results look like.”

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