More Information: C-Fern in the Open

Big Ideas and Design

A 4-6 week investigation for grades 9-12.

This module is designed to expose students to the plant life cycle. They will gain first-hand experience with the alternation of generations, a phenomenon that is typically difficult for students to understand.

Students work in teams to grow, observe and document developmental stages of the model organism, Ceratopteris richardii (C-Fern®). They sow spores and maintain their cultures in a way that is typical of biological research laboratories. Each stage of the C-Fern® life cycle will be examined as students remove one or two plants from their culture each week. Students will learn how to make a wet mount for observations under a compound light microscope as well as whole culture observations made under a dissecting microscope. As this is an observational study, data will take the form of hand sketches and qualitative descriptions made by each student.

Students communicate with scientist mentors online to discuss their findings.

Guided and Open Inquiry

Growing C-Fern® requires special conditions, so these are strongly guided in the document for optimal growth and development from one stage to the next in classrooms. Opportunities for open inquiry within the framework of the C-Fern® life cycle are indicated.

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Performance Expectations

The performance expectations for the c-fern module are:

  • K-LS1-1
  • 2-LS4-1
  • 2-LS4-2
  • 3-LS1-1
  • 3-LS4-3
  • MS-LS4-4
  • HS-LS4-2
  • HS-LS4-5

Targeted Grade Level

9-12, Biology courses, especially suitable for Botany (portions can be adapted for middle school and college classes)

Prior Student Background

None required. Extensions depend on student background.

C-Fern in the Open Resources: