This investigative case module was prepared as part of a BioQUEST faculty development workshop. The cases, resources, and implementation strategies were developed by participants for use with their own students. We invite you to adopt and adapt the following materials.

The BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium is committed to the reform of undergraduate biology instruction through an emphasis on engaging students in realistic scientific practices. This approach is sometimes characterized as an inquiry driven approach and is captured in BioQUEST's three P's (problem-posing, problem-solving, and peer-persuasion). As part of this workshop groups of faculty were encouraged to initiate innovative curricular projects. We are sharing these works in progress in the hope that they will stimulate further exploration, collaboration and development. Please see the following links for additional information:

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Investigative Cases
The Case: Plant Sitter

Billy and Meg were both students attending college in Atlanta, GA. They were contacted by Meg's Aunt, who lived in Atlanta, about doing some plant sitting while she and her husband were gone. "Meg" said Aunt Iris, "I need you and your friend to take care of our house plants, patio garden, and in-ground vegetation while Herb and I are on vacation for a few weeks." "We will pay you $20/day to check on the plants and make SURE that none of the die," added Herb. "Some of these plants were part of my research at State University." Meg and Billy jumped at the chance to make some easy money. "How hard could it be to watch some plants grow?” Billy asked Meg. Billy and Meg went over to Aunt Iris and Uncle Herb’s house to start their plant sitting duties. The found a detailed note which explained how to take care of all the plants around their property. "This will be easy and quick," commented Meg to Billy. Sure enough, both students had some exams and extracurricular activities planned over the weekend and forgot to take care of the plants. They showed up on Monday morning to find almost all the plants wilting and starting to turn color. "We are going to loose our money and my relatives will never speak to me again," wailed Meg. "Don't worry," said Billy "I have an idea that will get us out of this mess." "I have some friends in plant physiology lab this semester.” “They owe me a favor, let's bring the potted plants to their lab class to find out what to do.”

Case Author:

Case Analysis

Know: Plants were alive and healthy, now some are wilting and looking poor, some plants were used in academic research; both forgot to water or take care of plants for 2 full days, in lab student will see the plants including the genus, species, and common name. Need to Know: Water level in each plant, water level in soil, type of potting media, each plant’s permanent wilting point, species specific water holding capacity, fertilizer regimen, water potential equations. How do plants loose water? How do plants retain water?

Option: Include a know / need to know chart like the one below:

What do you know?
What do you need to know?

Learning Goals


Understand the concepts of plant water relations including: Plant water holding capacity, role of stomata in heat transfer/regulation, fruiting cycle of plant impacts water use, critical analysis of practical application, integration of multiple senses to solve a scientific question, development of testable hypothesis, use of outside of lab sources of information Water Use Efficiency




Investigations and Activities

Pressure Bomb (to find out plant water potential) Soil Moisture Probe (check soil water content) Weight of Leaves, Stems (water holding) Measure Leaves or stems (amount of lost turgor) Visually assess plants (qualitative view of the plants) Internet and text resource search for plant ID and characteristics



1. Provided plants from the “aunt-uncle’s” house in their pots. 2. All appropriate lab equipment to perform previously mentioned experiments. 3. Digital Camera 4. Plant dissection equipment 5. Audio recording equipment 6. Balance 7. Photometer 8. PS machine

Students will usually obtain additional references or resources
to help answer or explore their questions.

Special Data Items

Meterological data containing precipitation, temperature, RH, soalr insolation, and wind speed/direction. Web Links from Extension Text Plant soil and water relations

1. 32-635.jpg
2. fig3.jpg


Student Products

1. Complete data set derived from experiments conducted in lab. 2. An extension sheet detailing what happened, what is wrong with the plants, and recommendations on how to save plants with a probability gauge as to what will work to save the plants. . 3. Audio files which are at least three minutes long in an extension agent format(radio-like) which will be peer graded and saved to the course website.

Assessment and Evaluation Plan

Students will be assessed in the following fashion. 10% - Participation and collaboration with group 40% - Audio presentation 30% - Participation in per review and written extension form. 20% - Data collected and presented in figures and tables in a clear and concise fashion.



Course name:
Plant Physiology Laboratory
Likely sequence in syllabus:
Time during term:
Monday 2-5 pm
3 hrs
Wet Laboratory
Students in course:
Collaborative elements:
Additional notes:



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