Collaborative Learning with

As teachers we are always trying to provide “real” research opportunities for our students.  I have utilized a unique opportunity involving the study of plants in conjunction with providing students an actual on-line scientist to provide assistance and feedback concerning their own projects.  This website ( provides teachers the opportunity to get their students matched up with a plant scientist to help guide them perform some project that the students design themselves.  Currently there are three major themes used: Germination and Seedling Growth Investigation, Photosynthesis and Respiration Investigation, and Traits, Variation, and Environment in Rapid Cycling Brassica.  If these topics fit into your biology curriculum I would strongly suggest that you check out the planting science website.  Your students design their own experiments, they upload their results and discussions to the plantingscience website.  The novel aspect of this website is that they provide ALL the pertinent background information that a student would need to design and carry out a real scientific experiment.  The students usually get an immense amount of collaborative feedback by working on-line with real scientists around the country.  I personally have used the Traits and Variation in Rapid Cycling Brassica with 40 students and they all “experienced” the real aspects of scientific research – which is sometimes hard to provide.  I have had students also perform experiments using the Germination unit and the Celery Challenge.  The website provides a window of about 6-8 weeks for the students to complete their research projects.  All of these units provide everything needed to enable your students to perform “real” research.  The website provides a real location for presenting student research results.  The plantingscience website is definitely a website that can provide your students with real research involving real researchers.  Below is the on-line help that the students get – all of this can be used even if you are not using the website.

Investigating Plants Safely:
Thinking Like a Scientist / Working like a Scientist
Designing Experiments:
Collecting Data:
Guide to using Spreadsheets:

Some research projects that students have completed.
Keep in mind that even though a few of these projects seem to be very low-level, the actual pre- and post test results taken from these projects indicate that the students learned quite a bit about designing experiments and carrying them out.  Just as in real science we sometimes learn much more from bad experimental designs.



Author: bwelch

I am Biology Teacher at Wichita North High School.