Picture from Grow Magazine: Fischer, J. (2011). Stealth Science: An innovative program for young learners folds hands-on science into reading. Grow, 5(1), 7.
Reading Green: Wisconsin Fast Plants® connecting science and literacy learning.

Reading Green is a 2-week elementary level activity to teach what plants need to grow. Grade 4-5 students grow Wisconsin Fast Plants® from seed to flower, while reading interesting short stories that were written specially for both science and literacy learning. Reading Green stories integrate elements that are relevant to young readers’ lives with scientific and historical information in a format designed to teach fluency and comprehension skills.


Across the country, elementary teachers are looking for ways to strengthen students’ literacy skills and still have time for learning about the natural world through science. Reading Green is a research-based learning activity that integrates learning in both science and literacy. In addition, Reading Green includes integrated mathematics and multicultural elements throughout the lessons. Students plant Wisconsin Fast Plant® seeds and observe them growing and flowering in just 14 days. While their plants grow, students read short stories that were written to capture young readers’ imaginations as middleschool- age twins travel around the world with their scientist parents, learning about what plants need to grow.

Wisconsin Fast Plants®

Students take ownership in growing Wisconsin Fast Plants® as they learn through direct experiences with and observations about the life cycle of a flowering plant. Wisconsin Fast Plants germinate in 2-3 days and quickly grow to flowering in two weeks.

Fast Plants® (scientific name: Brassica rapa) are members of the crucifer family of plants, closely related to cabbage, turnips, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables. Bred for over 30 years at the University of Wisconsin, Madison by Professor Paul H. Williams, Fast Plants today require little more attention than continuous fluorescent light, water, and fertilizer.

Fast Plants grow easily in the growing system provided, which allow four students to each identify “their” plant in a shared “quad.” Eight quads fit comfortably on a shoe-box size water reservoir, which works with the quad wicking system to automate watering. Under 24-hour fluorescent light, Fast Plants grow well and are easy to manage in this growing system.

Reading Green Stories

Each Reading Green story offers insights into what plants need to grow, examples of how scientists learn about nature, the historical perspective of human dependence on plants, and the global importance of plants. The fictional Reading Green family is at the heart of each story, traveling to:

  • Egypt, where the children learn how the annually flooding Nile brings nutrient rich soil and water that plants need to grow
  • Siberia, where it is evident that plants need light and temperatures above freezing
  • Nepal, where Fast Plants’ ancient ancestors were first selected by humans to learn about the function of flowers
  • Hawai, where they learn how seeds are involved in plant reproduction
  • Southern Texas, to unravel the cause of their grandparents’ crop failure

The Reading Green stories were written to genuinely engage elementary students, and field test results show the stories are compelling for young readers. In addition, the stories were intentionally developed following M. A. K. Halliday’s model for authentic and meaningful language learning (1982).

Reading Green is available for sale from Carolina Biological Supply.

Teacher's guide, student books, seeds and planting materials are available from Carolina Biological Supply Company: 1-800-334-5551.

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The Read-Write-Think project at provides educators with access to high quality practices and resources in reading and language arts instruction that can be used to make the most of literacy instruction with Reading Green activities.
Fast Plants® is a registered trademark of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
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