March newsletter - Tropisms and top tips from biology teachers and technicians
Welcome to the Science and Plants for Schools March newsletter. This month's focus is on tropisms, plus the latest top tips from teachers and technicians.
Introducing tropisms: from Darwin to the International Space Station
Plants are constantly detecting what is going on in their environments. The better they respond to these clues, the better their chances of healthy growth and survival. A tropism is a form of response where the direction of the stimulus detected by the plant influences the direction in which it grows. That stimulus may be light, or gravity, or touch, and different parts of the plant respond in different ways to the same stimulus.
This range of responses gives us lots to explore in the lab and outdoors, and has fascinated scientists from Darwin through to NASA astronauts.
Tropisms in the classroom: SAPS resources
Plants in space...
Here's a new resource all the way from the International Space Station. Researchers compared the growth of seedlings on Earth and in space, and made the videos available online. What are the relative effects of phototropism and gravitropism? Your students may be surprised!
Here's a fun way to look at gravitropism and phototropism a little closer to home - with a little drama added by sticking a Petri dish full of seeds to the lab wall.
Or how about making use of the school weed problem, with this easy practical on gravitropism with dandelions.
We know that seedlings on a windowsill bend towards the source of light - but which wavelengths of light are they responding to? Get your students to investigate
Tropisms in the classroom: more ideas from teachers and technicians
Dylan from CREST suggests growing seed shoots through a vertical maze using directed light sources, to demonstrate phototropism.
Frank Fern from Somerset reminds teachers to use white mustard seeds rather than cress seeds for biology practicals. As he says, its “easier to handle, less inclined to die over the weekend and sticks to the filter paper”.
One for keen gardeners - TV presenter and botanist Dr Trevor Dines of PlantLife suggests taking a passionflower plant into your lab, stroking the tip of a tendril with a pencil and timing how long it takes for a curve response (approx 30-40 mins). This makes a nice contrast with the dandelion tropism practical (above), showing two different tropic responses within the course of a lesson. Or watch Trevor on video here (mins 11:55-16:56)
Mark Sheridan from Walford and North Shropshire College suggests growing brassica seedlings in a small clear screwdriver case, held at a slight angle. By using a screwdriver case rather than a Petri dish, you can allow the roots to develop to 4 or 5 inches, making root development much more evident.
Charles Darwin and his son Francis were fascinated by how plants move, carrying out a range of experiments into tropisms, which they detailed in their book The Power of Movement in Plants (available online). The Charles Darwin Trust team suggested your students might like to try recreating some of the Darwins' experiments into plant movement.
What's new? The latest top tips and ideas from the science classroom.
Leya Mathew planned to do the cauliflower cloning practical, but was having difficulty getting hold of appropriate containers. She improvised with ‘condiment cups’ from her school canteen (the little containers with lids intended for ketchup, chutney, etc). Although not sterile, Leyla had excellent results with these, with only a 10% contamination rate.
David Wright is working on time lapse photography, funded by a SAPS Associate Award. Here’s an early video from his project, showing phototropism.
Sue Muswell has a great tip for those using algal balls and bubbling Cabomba. If you don't have professional filters, Quality Street cellophane wrappers make excellent coloured filters to wrap around the bijou bottles – and the chocolates themselves can be used to remind students of the products of photosynthesis. This was just one of Sue’s great ideas for using Quality Streets in the science classroom, revealed at a recent TeachMeet.
Ian McDaid of Sheffield is looking forward to creating this hydroponics set-up for his new lab using Ikea components.
Danielle Kohlman shows how a window can become a vibrant tool for labelling a display of living organisms in the biology lab. She’s using ‘Tiger’ Fluorescent Window Marker Pens, available from a range of suppliers.
Chris Gibson’s science garden for his school is growing, despite near disaster when the greenhouse was blown over in a winter gale – here he shows us a time lapse video of a resurrection plant unfurling. Like David, Chris is funded by a SAPS Associate Award.
Congratulations to the finalists in School Biology Teacher of the Year
Congratulations to biology teachers Beverley Goodger, of Sir John Deane’s College, and Dr Richard Spencer, of SRC Bede Sixth Form, the finalists in the Society of Biology’s 2013 School Biology Teacher of the Year Award, which seeks to recognise the most inspiring biology teachers in 11-19 education.
We’re proud to say that both Beverley and Richard are also already holders of a SAPS Associate Award.
Beverley also attended the Plant Science Summer School, and an article by on its effects on her department was published in the March edition of School Science Review.
Last month's photosynthesis quiz: answers and winners
Thanks to everyone who took part in our photosynthesis quiz in last month’s newsletter. We’ll be using your responses to support PGCE students and NQTs in developing their understanding of this key topic.
You can get the questions and answers for 'Photosynthesis - test your knowledge' online, for use in an edited version with your 6th formers.