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Our Wisconsin charter school uses scientific research and project-based learning as the focus of our curriculum. Project learning is based on a constructivist model of learning that engages you in real-world scholarly activity because you get to chose topics that interest you.
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Genetics Research - FAST

Posted on January 15, 2012 by Rebekah W., 12th Grade

Have you ever been interested in genetics? Family traits passed down from generation to generation, breeding plants for a better harvest or animals for stronger or faster offspring? Here at Wildlands we have the opportunity to explore how genetics work and much more.

The idea behind fast plants was to genetically engineer a plant that would reproduce in a short period of time. This was accomplished by Professor Emeritus, Paul H. Williams from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. He created plants that would complete their full life cycle in approximately 40 days. This allows students (like us) and scientists to conduct  experiments and get results in a short amount of time.

As we were interested in genetics, fast plants were the obvious choice to learn in an efficient time period. We ordered the seeds and equipment from a supplier and got to work. Once we had the first generation of seeds planted we watched some videos and learned more about DNA and how genetics transfer. These videos create a background of  knowledge that we can keep drawing from as we continue in this project.

As the first generation became mature and started blooming, we picked two plants one from each variety and cross pollinated only those two together. The purpose of only cross pollinating two plants together is so that we can see which traits from each plant are passed to the offspring. In a gene you have dominant and recessive traits. In order to find out which traits are dominant or recessive you have to breed them together to look at the next generation. Some of the traits we will be looking at in our experiment are tall or short, purple stem or non-purple stem, hairy or non-hairy.

We have only just begun this project, but our plants are already reproducing. As you are reading this we will probably be planting the second generation of our fast plants to find out which traits from the first generation are dominant. As the school year progresses we hope to be able to predict  which traits we expect to see in the next generation and create our own breed of fast plant. Using the information we have collected, the possibilities are endless as to what type of fast plants we could genetically engineer.

There is so much to discover and here at Wildlands. We have the opportunity, so why not take it?

Definitions:

Gene - A gene is a segment of DNA that is responsible for the physical and inheritable characteristics of an organism.

Allele - One part of a pair of genes occupying a specific spot on a chromosome that controls the same trait. Basically they code for a specific trait: such as blue eyes, height and so on. There are two alleles for each gene pair.

Dominant - A dominant gene is the gene that "wins" over all the other genes.

Recessive - A recessive trait is a trait that is less likely to express itself in the outward appearance of a person or organism. However it is expressed when both recessive alleles are paired during reproduction.

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In the winter of 2011, Wildlands Charter School students began producing news stories for our website and an electronic email newsletter.

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