Using Student-Produced Time-Lapse Plant Movies to Communicate Concepts in Plant Biology

Movie setup Why do stu­dents think plants are “bor­ing”? One factor may be that they do not see plant move­ment in real (i.e. their) time. This atti­tude may neg­at­ively impact their under­stand­ing of plant bio­logy. Time-lapse movies of plants allow stu­dents to see the soph­ist­ic­a­tion of move­ments involved in both organ devel­op­ment and orientation.

The object­ive of this pro­ject was to develop simple meth­ods to cap­ture image sequences for lab ana­lysis and for con­vert­ing to movies. The tech­no­logy for mak­ing time-lapse movies is now eas­ily attain­able and fairly inex­pens­ive, allow­ing its use for skill levels from grade school through col­lege under­gradu­ates. In addi­tion, this type of exer­cise can be expan­ded for inquiry-based or service-learning pro­jects. Time-lapse movie exer­cises have been integ­rated into an under­gradu­ate plant physiology course and also used in out­reach activities.

Using a cheap web­cam and free soft­ware, stu­dents pro­duced movies based on quant­it­at­ive meas­ure­ment of root growth in radish seed­lings, with an option to study down­ward curvature after reori­ent­a­tion (gravitropism).

The use of time-lapse movies of plant growth and other plant move­ment can help stim­u­late interest in plants and can be adap­ted for spe­cific learn­ing out­comes with vary­ing levels of quant­it­at­ive ana­lysis, hypo­thesis devel­op­ment, and com­mu­nic­a­tion of res­ults. Even if you prefer not to make your own plant movies, using them to enhance your cur­riculum by illus­trat­ing core con­cepts, or in case stud­ies, makes plants more excit­ing and inter­est­ing to students.

Using Student-Produced Time-Lapse Plant Movies to Communicate Concepts in Plant Biology. Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education Volume 14, Issue 1 May 2013


AJ Cann. ORCID 0000-0002-9014-3720

Alan Cann is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Leicester and Internet Consulting Editor for AoB.