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ASPB Education FoundationIn support of the mission of ASPB, the ASPB Education Foundation was established in 1995 to provide information and education to increase the public’s knowledge about the role of plants in all areas of life.

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- Gap Analysis Comparing ASPB Twelve Principles of Plant Biology to National and Selected State Education Standards

National Science Education Standards & National Research Council

Summary comparison of ASPB's twelve principles as they relate to the NRC National Science Education Standards. — ASPB Principles one, four, five and seven, are addressed at least in some part in the NRC standards.

The National Science Education Standards are designed to enable the nation to reach the goal that all students should achieve scientific literacy. "They spell out a vision of science education that will make scientific literacy for all a reality in the 21st century," said Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences.

Following are the References to Plant Science in the NRC Standards for Grades K-4, 5-8 and 9-12:

NRC Plant Science References for Standards for Grades K-4:

"How do plants get food?"

"Plants and animals have life cycles that include being born, developing into adults, reproducing, and eventually dying. The details of this life cycle are different for different organisms."

"Plants and animals closely resemble their parents."

"Inherited characteristics include the color of flowers and the number of limbs on an animal."

"All animals depend on plants. Some animals eat plants for food. Other animals eat animals that eat the plants."

"When the environment changes, some plants and animals survive and reproduce, and others die or move to new locations."

NRC Plant Science References for Standards for Grades 5-8:

"However, the student might have misconceptions about the role of sperm and eggs and about the sexual reproduction of flowering plants."

(There is information on how all organisms are composed of cells — the fundamental unit of life — and how cells function, without specific mention of plants, although plants are included in the definition of all organisms.)

"Plants also reproduce sexually — the egg and sperm are produced in flowers of flowering plants. An egg and sperm unite to begin development of a new individual."

"Plants and some microorganisms are producers — they make their own food. All animals, including humans, are consumers, which obtain food by eating other organisms."

"For ecosystems, the major source of energy is sunlight. Energy entering ecosystems as sunlight is transferred by producers into chemical energy through photosynthesis. That energy then passes from organism to organism in food webs."

"The number of organisms an ecosystem can support depends on the resources available and abiotic factors, such as quantity of light and water, range of temperatures, and soil composition."

"Millions of species of animals, plants and microorganisms are alive today. Although different species might look dissimilar, the unity among organisms becomes apparent from an analysis of internal structures, the similarity of their chemical processes, and the evidence of common ancestry."

NRC Plant Science References for Standards for Grades 9-12:

(There is considerable attention to the cell and its composition including DNA and cell functions without specific reference to plants in several paragraphs with the exception of the following paragraph in which plants are specifically mentioned.)

"Plant cells contain chloroplasts, the site of photosynthesis. Plants and many microorganisms use solar energy to combine molecules of carbon dioxide and water into complex, energy rich organic compounds and release oxygen to the environment. This process of photosynthesis provides a vital connection between the sun and the energy needs of living systems."

"The millions of different species of plants, animals and microorganisms that live on earth today are related by descent from common ancestors."

"Energy flows through ecosystems in one direction, from photosynthetic organisms to herbivores to carnivores and decomposers."

"The energy for life primarily derives from the sun. Plants capture energy by absorbing light and using it to form strong (covalent) chemical bonds between the atoms of carbon-containing (organic) molecules. These molecules can be used to assemble larger molecules with biological activity (including proteins, DNA, sugars and fats). In addition, the energy stored in bonds between the atoms (chemical energy) can be used as sources of energy for life processes."

Science for All Americans
Project 2061
American Association for the Advancement of Science

Summary comparison between Science for All Americans Project 2061 and ASPB 12 principles: Science for All Americans Project 2061 addresses ASPB principles one, two, four, five, six, seven, nine, ten, and twelve.

Science for All Americans outlines what all students should know and be able to do by the time they leave high school. Science for All Americans was published by AAAS as part of Project 2061, which is a long term-initiative of AAAS to reform K-12 education in natural and social science, mathematics and technology. Begun in 1985, The Project is developing a set of tools to help local, state and national educators redesign curriculum in these areas and ensure its success.

References to plant science in the AAAS Science for All Americans

Diversity of Life:

"One of the most general distinctions among organisms is between plants, which get their energy directly from sunlight, and animals, which consume the energy-rich foods initially synthesized by plants. But not all organisms are clearly one or the other."

"Animals and plants have a great variety of body plans, with different overall structures and arrangements of internal parts to perform the basic operations of making or finding food, deriving energy and materials from it, synthesizing new materials and reproducing."

"The preservation of diversity of species is important to human beings. We depend on two food webs to obtain the energy and materials necessary for life. One starts with microscopic ocean plants and seaweed and includes animals that feed on them and animals that feed on those animals. The other one begins with land plants and includes animals that feed on them, and so forth. The elaborate interdependencies among species serve to stabilize these food webs."


"For example, people have bred their domestic animals and plants to select desirable characteristics; the results are modern varieties of dogs, cats, cattle, fowl, fruits and grains that are perceptibly different from their forebears. Changes have also been observed — in grains, for example — that are extensive enough to produce new species. In fact, some branches of descendants of the same parent species are so different from others that they can no longer breed with one another."

"In sexual reproduction of plants and animals, a specialized cell from a female fuses with a specialized cell from a male. Each of these sex cells contains an unpredictable half of the parent's genetic information...As the fertilized cell multiplies to form an embryo, and eventually a seed or mature individual, the combined sets are replicated in each new cell."

Interdependence of Life:

"Plants provide food, shelter, and nesting sites for other organisms. For their part, many plants depend upon animals for help in reproduction (bees pollinate flowers, for instance) and for certain nutrients (such as minerals in animal waste products). All animals are part of food webs that include plants and animals of other species (and sometimes the same species)."

"Some species come to depend very closely on others (for instance, pandas or koalas can eat only certain species of trees). Some species have become so adapted to each other that neither could survive without the other (for example, the wasps that nest only in figs and are the only insect that can pollinate them)."

"Scavengers and decomposers feed only on dead animals and plants. And some organisms have mutually beneficial relationships -- for example, the bees that sip nectar from flowers and incidentally carry pollen from one flower to the next, or the bacteria that live in our intestines and incidentally synthesize some vitamins and protect the intestinal lining from germs."

Flow of Matter and Energy:

"Almost all life on earth is ultimately maintained by transformations of energy from the sun. Plants capture the sun's energy and use it to synthesize complex, energy-rich molecules (chiefly sugars) from molecules of carbon dioxide and water. These synthesized molecules then serve, directly or indirectly, as the source of energy for the plants themselves and ultimately for all animals and decomposer organisms (such as bacteria and fungi). This is the food web: The organisms that consume the plants derive energy and materials from breaking down the plant molecules, use them to synthesize their own structures and then are themselves consumed by other organisms. At each stage in the food web, some energy is stored in newly synthesized structures and some is dissipated into the environment as heat produced by energy-releasing chemical processes in cells. A similar energy cycle begins in the oceans with the capture of the sun's energy by tiny, plant-like organisms. Each successive stage in a food web captures only a small fraction of the energy content of organisms it feeds on."

"The elements that make up the molecules of living things are continually recycled. Chief among these elements are carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus, calcium, sodium, potassium, and iron. These and other elements, mostly occurring in energy-rich molecules, are passed along the food web and eventually are recycled by decomposers back to mineral nutrients usable by plants."

"An important interruption in the usual flow of energy apparently occurred millions of years ago when the growth of land plants and marine organisms exceeded the ability of decomposers to recycle them. The accumulating layers of energy-rich organic material were gradually turned into coal and oil by the pressure of the overlying earth."

"Sustained productivity of an ecosystem requires sufficient energy for new products that are synthesized (such as trees and crops) and also for recycling completely the residue of the old (dead leaves, human sewage, etc)".

(There is a section on agriculture in the recommendations which explains how early man went from being nomadic hunters and gatherers of animals and plants they found for food, to a stage where they learned to expand their food supplies through using processing technology such as pounding, salting, cooking and fermenting. Man also learned how to use inedible parts of plants and animals for tools, clothes and containers. Man further evolved to planting crops in one place and encouraging growth with cultivation. Later, man used plant breeding to attain more favorable characteristics in plants. More recently, the success of modern genetics has helped to increase the natural variability within plant species. With knowledge of what the genetic code sequences control what functions, some characteristics can be transferred from one species to another. This technique may eventually lead to the design of new characteristics. For example, plants can be given the genetic program for synthesizing substances that give them resistance to insect predators. Environmentally harmonious use of biological controls in crop production may offer advantages over use of some chemicals. The globalization of the food market has made rich nations less vulnerable to poor crop yields, but poor nations remain vulnerable.)

Draft Interim Content and Performance Standards
California Department of Education

Summary comparison of ASPB's twelve principles as they relate to the California Department of Education draft Interim Content and Performance Standards — ASPB Principles one, four, five, seven, eleven and twelve are addressed at least in part in the California K-12 draft standards. Plants are mentioned frequently in the draft standards. The approach of the California draft standards is to divide Life Science into different sections such as: Cell; Structure/Function; Diversity; Heredity; Interdependence; Evolution; and Energy Flow. Under each section, a standard is stated followed by the types of work students should be able to do, such as observation, comparison and experiments, to learn the standard.

Generally, plants do not appear to be poorly represented in terms of the number of examples listed in the sections compared to the number of animal and human examples. Of particular note for K-2 students, plants are used for four of the five Energy Flow examples. These Energy Flow plant examples are:

"Compare and contrast the effect of specific amounts of water on plants over a certain period of time."

"Listen to a piece of literature such as 'Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain' by Vera Aardema and compare how the plants and animals react to the drought, compare with droughts in your area." "Grow two green plants, one in sunlight and one in the dark; observe, compare and contrast the results."

"Given pictures of several animals and plants, build a simple food chain mobile that shows what eats what."

However, plants didn't receive much mention in the Evolution section for K-2 students which only captures plants generically under "living things" while listing prehistoric animals and dinosaurs as examples of living things. The evolution of plants fares better in grades 3-5 as plants are mentioned in two of the five examples under this Evolution section.

Learning Standards for Mathematics, Science, and Technology
New York State Education Department

Summary comparison of ASPB's 12 principles as they relate to the State Education Department of the State of New York Learning Standards for Mathematics, Science and Technology — The New York State Standards partially address ASPB principles one, four, ten, eleven and twelve. The New York State Standards emphasize approaches to scientific inquiry and analysis which involved use of plants in a number of examples. For example, teachers are encouraged to divide students into small groups and ask them to explain why a cactus plant requires much less water to survive than many other plants. Some of the other plant examples used are:

"Grow bean plants or butterflies; record and describe stages of development" (to demonstrate continuity of life is sustained through reproduction and development)

"Describe how plants and animals, including humans, depend upon each other and the nonliving environments" and "Observe the effects of sunlight on growth for a garden vegetable" (to demonstrate that plants and animals depend on each other and their physical environments). Preliminary Draft
Illinois Academic Standards — Science

Summary comparison between ASPB twelve principles and Illinois Academic Standards for Science: ASPB principles one in part and four are addressed in the draft Illinois Academic Standards. The Illinois life science academic standards are:

Apply concepts of form and function within the sciences (which include comparing structures of plant cells with animal cells; using plant cells in a salt solution to explain how cells and organisms react to stimuli and maintain stability; investigating the cell components for photosynthesis and respiration.

Apply concepts of change and constancy within the sciences (which include identifying plant and animal features (such as thorns) that help them live in different environments.

Apply concepts of models and explanations within the sciences (which includes comparing characteristics of organisms produced from a single parent including some plants with those of organisms produced by two parents (e.g. most plants and animals.)

Explain the historical development and importance of science and technology.

Explain the conceptual relationship between science and technology

Describe and analyze relationships among science, technology and society in practical situations.

Science Framework Grades K-12
State of Tennessee

Summary comparison of ASPB's 12 principles with the State of Tennessee science standards: The Tennessee science standards tend not to address ASPB's 12 principles. However, there are also relatively few examples of animal and human biology in the Tennessee standards compared to other states.

The approach in Tennessee's standards is use of broader concepts of the process of science; unifying concepts; habits of mind; and science and society with less mention of human, animal or plant examples. The introductory section of the standards lists the national goals of science in the NRC National Science Education Standards as produced in the 1994 draft. In the appendix of the Tennessee standards, plants are listed as Content Topics for K-2 Science and 3-5 Science. Botanical Systems are listed as Content Topics for Biology II courses and may be used for Biology I courses. The Ecology section and Environmental Science section do not list plants or botanical systems as Content Topics. However, it would seem that plants would still be covered in these sections under listed Content Topics such as cycles in nature, energy flow and nutrition, adaptation and behavior and ecological succession in the Ecology section. It would seem like there would also be coverage of plants under the Environmental Science section under Content Topics hierarchy of ecosystem organization, ecosystem structure and function and energy flow through ecosystems.

Mississippi Science Framework
Grades 9-12

Summary comparison between the ASPB 12 principles and the Mississippi Science Framework Grades 9-12: The Mississippi standards address ASPB principles one, ten and eleven.

In analyzing the interrelationships among cell structure, function and organization within a living organism, the sample teaching strategies used plant examples including:

"Relate process of photosynthesis to chloroplast by having students perform iodine tests on plant leaves grown in the dark as opposed to those grown in the light."

"Test sections of variegated Coleus leaves, comparing colored and green sections for presence of sugar."

"Compare xylem and phloem of vascular plants to the circulatory system in humans as examples of transport tissue."

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills
Secondary Schools Advanced Placement Biology

Summary comparison of Texas standards and ASPB 12 principles: It appears that several of the ASPB principles would be addressed in the Texas standards, but the Texas document is presented in the form of a Topic Outline without much explanatory information.

Following are portions of the topic outline related to plants:

Under "molecules and cells" there was reference to photosynthesis, fermentation and cellular respiration.

Under "organisms and populations" there was reference to the structure and function of plants and animals including reproduction, growth and development; structural, physiological and behavioral adaptations; and response to the environment. The "organisms and populations" section also had a "Plants" subsection on reproduction, growth and development; structural and physiological adaptations; and response to the environment.

Gap Analysis
Written by
ASPB Public Affairs Director, Brian Hyps

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