Can Plants Learn?

This short exercise has students analyze an experiment that was described in Nature where scientists attempt to discover if plants can learn.

In this worksheet, students are introduced to the idea of learning with Pavlov’s experiments pairing a bell with dog food. This same type of association learning was tested in plants. Where a fan was paired with a light and pea plants can grow in one of two directions. The simplicity of the design, I think will make it easy for students to understand the set-up.

Students answer questions about the variables in the experiment, the conclusions and suggest a control variable for a comparison. This assumes that students already know the difference between an independent and dependent variable.

Optionally, you could do this as a class and discuss the answers together. I rarely take grades over these types of assignments and use mainly for reinforcement and enrichment.

After the reading you can show them the video that describes the experiment. If students were having trouble following the text, the video explains the entire experiment with a cartoon.

Pondering Pea Plants – Can Plants Learn

The downloads below contain two versions of the worksheet, one with open-ended questions and the other with multiple choice to aid with differentiated instruction.

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices

1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
2. Developing and using models
3. Planning and carrying out investigations  
4. Analyzing and interpreting data