Cultivating a Better Botany Course for High Schools

(Click here to the original story at the NSF website)

High-school biology teachers are delving deeper into the plant world with the help of plant biologists at the University of Missouri. Through professional development workshops, the teachers learn concepts in plant biology from research scientists and receive curricular materials aligned with state and national science teaching standards.


Caption: Teachers extract DNA from plants during a workshop.

Credit: Laurent Brechenmacher, University of Missouri

This program is unique in that it incorporates aspects of basic scientific research into an engaging plant biology program for teachers, and emphasizes an investigative approach for classroom learning. In addition, the program has the teacher participants return to the workshops so they can share their experiences and gain additional insight into plant biology.


Caption: Teachers gain insights into plant anatomy and physiology.

Credit: Deanna Lankford, University of Missouri


Teachers learn how to extract DNA from plant materials, examine nodule formation in soybeans roots inoculated with the bacterium Bradyrhizobium japonicum, and create biofuels from plant oil. The teachers receive background information and student-ready investigations for each of the concepts emphasized within the program. They also receive soybean seeds, planting materials and a light set to support implementation of the investigations when they return to their classrooms.


Caption: Teacher create and test biofuels.

Credit: Laurent Brechenmacher, University of Missouri

In addition to conducting the teacher workshops, the researchers have recruited and mentored undergraduate students in plant science research. Through the Freshman Research in Plant Science program, faculty mentors invite first-year students to work in their labs for 8 to 12 hours per week during the academic year. The students also attend weekly meetings led by a senior graduate student who engages them in discussions, presentations and other activities designed to enhance their experiences with plant science research.