The National Science Education Standards (1996. National Research Council. Washington D.C.) comprise an integrated set of standards for science teaching, professional development for teachers of science, assessment in science education, science content, science education programs, and science education systems with the ultimate goal of developing a scientifically literate populace.
As of 2013, the National Science Education Standards have been replaced by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
The NGSS offer a detailed description of the key scientific ideas and practices that all students should learn by the time they graduate from high school. The standards are based largely on the 2011 National Research Council report A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas.
While the value of C-Fern as a model system makes it useful for many of the standard sets, here we focus on the application C-Fern in the Science as Inquiry and the Life Science Content Standards.
Science as Inquiry
As a central focus of the National Standards, inquiry-based learning requires that students be given the opportunity to develop skills in asking questions, designing and conducting investigations, using tools to collect data, critically evaluating experimental results, and communicating the results and implications of scientific studies. Several features make C-Fern ideal for inquiry-based and individual or group experimental approaches. During the rapid two-week development of C-Fern, from spores to sexually mature gametophytes, many biological processes are easily observed, manipulated, and measured. For instance, spore germination (absolute or over time) can be quantified and used to assess the organism’s responses to environmental stresses. Also, changes in the gametophyte sex ratio (pheromone-based) can be quantified to assess the effects of manipulations, treatments or genotypes within a population. Observations of these and other simple but varied features provide opportunities to ask and refine many types of questions. In addition, because C-Fern gametophytes are small, i.e., 0.5 – 3 mm at maturity, large populations consisting of hundreds of individuals can be cultured in small (60×20 mm) Petri dishes. The rapid development of gametophytes means that experiments can be repeated easily and successive experiments can be easily extended over time. These properties make it possible to generate very large data sets for individual and classroom-level experimentation and thus provide an excellent foundation in sampling techniques, quantitative measurements, statistical treatment of data and interpretation, and communication of results.
Life Science Content Standards The broad applicability of C-Fern for a variety of classroom uses means that it can be applied and integrated into several of the Content Standards. Life Science standards focus on the science facts, concepts, principles, theories, and models that are important for all students to know, understand, and use. In the following Table, the bulleted list highlights some of the specific C-Fern attributes that are relevant to each standard category.
Life Science Standards
Levels K – 4
Levels 5 – 8
Levels 9 – 12
Characteristics of organisms
Structure and function in living systems
Life cycles of organisms
Reproduction and heredity
Molecular basis of heredity
Organisms and environment
Regulation and behavior
Populations and ecosystems
Matter, energy, and organization of living systems
Diversity and adaptation of organisms
Behavior of organisms