Investigating Brassicas Around the World with Fast Plants

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NEW! Lesson plan, video, experiment, & more!!

Sometimes, in teaching, we hit a real sweet spot with a lesson that is brimming with learning opportunities folded into one investigation. Brassicas Around the World is exactly that. Interwoven seamlessly you’ll find support for learning about:

  • Environmental influences on how plant populations change (both through human selection and natural selection).
  • Genetic diversity and allelic variation influences in plant breeding and natural adaptation.
  • History of agriculture and appreciation for how early humans shaped crops we depend on today.
  • Appreciation for how cultural diversity is at the heart of Brassica diversity (along with genetic and environmental diversity).

There you have it, a beautiful blend of fundamental biological concepts with valuable knowledge about food production and cultural connections that can be taken as deep as you wish. Here are just a few of the resources we developed for this robust investigation:

  1. Comprehensive, NGSS- and Ag standards-aligned Open Source Investigation, written in Brett Moulding’s Gather, Reason, Communicate and BSCS’s 5E Models. This is a Google Doc lesson plan that you can copy to your own drive and edit.
  2. Video! We produced a 10 minute video with guest appearances by ethnobotanist Alex McAlvay, lead author on a recently published paper about Brassica origins.
  3. Implementation calendar and timeline for the central Fast Plants breeding experiment, in which students design and implement selective breeding for purple or non-purple pigmentation.
  4. Basic plant Structures/Functions matching card activity, made in the style of Magic the Gathering cards (for fun!).

Some of you may remember the original “Around the World with Brassicas” slide set and typed script. That first version came about in 1987 when Fast Plants Program managers, Coe Williams and Jane Sharer, realized the value in situating the story of Fast Plants and experiments in their broader cultural and agricultural contexts. So, they worked with Paul Williams, Director of the Program, to select some slides from the hundreds of photographs he took during his stays in China. Then, they wrote a script to use along with those slides for learning how Brassicas were bred and used around the world.

Those early slides from Paul's travels to China offered rare insights into cultural connections between the Chinese people and Brassicas. That's because the Cold War kept the US and China separate until Nixon opened the door for cultural exchanges. So, in the late 1970s when Paul Williams was selected by the United States State Department as the plant disease and pathogen specialist to travel to China, he and the rest of his science team were among the first to interact with Chinese farmers and scientists since the Cold War. These agricultural ambassadors stayed for a month, traveling to farms and learning about China's agricultural farming systems. To put this into perspective, Paul being selected as one of only 12 Agricultural scientists from across the US to be granted access to China was a very big deal!

Eventually, the original slide show became dated, and since then we’ve long known its potential for re-development. So, we poured our first resource development efforts of 2023 into creating a new Brassicas Around the Word inquiry with a central Fast Plants breeding experiment! You’ll find everything is designed with grade level flexibility in mind and user-friendly embedded hyperlinks. Click the link below to check it out; you’ll be glad you did!

    Fast Plants Newsletter

Last Edited: April 10th, 2023 at 2:24pm by kbouda

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