Abstract: Designed as a whole-class experiment, students work in teams to understand genotypic variation among recombinant inbred lines (RILs) of the model organism Arabidopsis thaliana. Seeds are used from two parent lines, Columbia and Landsberg, as well as numerous recombinant inbred lines (RILs) developed by crossing the parent lines. In a guided inquiry investigation, students sow and cultivate all the plants in the same controlled environments (to minimize variation due to environment), and monitor traits to observe genetic variation among the RILs. Protocols are provided to investigate whether given traits are continuous (quantitative) traits – the result of multiple genes, or if they are discrete traits – the result of a single gene. In addition to this guided inquiry, students may also choose other traits to investigate. Students can even propose whether a continuous trait is linked to one of the discrete traits or not. Student teams pool data with other teams in the class to analyze trends and patterns, such as identifying continuous versus discrete traits, and determining potential genetic linkages among traits. Students communicate with scientist mentors online to discuss their experiment, from generating questions to constructing evidence-based conclusions.
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