ExoLab Curriculum Approach
Magnitude.io offers a unique classroom experience with their innovative plant growth chamber, ExoLab. This technology lets classrooms conduct plant growth experiments, while measures all sorts of data as the plants grow, allowing students to easily collect and analyze data. A sister growth chamber, located on the International Space Station (ISS), will allow students to compare experiments running on Earth to those in space.
Your help is needed to understand how to garden in space! Some people think that humans might have to venture out into space in the future in order to survive once Earth can no longer support us. And some people want to explore beyond Earth as soon as possible. People will have to know how to grow plants in space, to provide oxygen and food. Bioengineers have asked you to help figure out: How well can plants grow in space? Can they even grow in space? Through a series of experiments, you’ll learn about plant growth on Earth and then investigate plant growth on the International Space Station.
Through a series of experiments, you’ll learn more about plant growth on Earth and then investigate plant growth on the International Space Station.
Magnitude offers a thoughtfully designed inquiry-based curriculum, and is meant to help students deepen their experimentation skills through the use of our technology. Inquiry-based learning is a form of active learning, meant to engage students in the scientific process through the use of questions, critical thinking, meaningful problems, and authentic investigations. We start by identifying and connecting to students’ existing ideas, and then building on, revising, and expanding those ideas through a set of experiments using the ExoLab. Students will engage in experimental design, data collection and analysis, writing and revising hypotheses, and communicating about what they’ve learned using evidence from their experiments.
Designed for NGSS
Magnitude curriculum is design with NGSS in mind, integrating the three domains of NGSS throughout the unit — the disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and cross-cutting concepts.
Field Tested by Teachers
Our curriculum will go through multiple rounds of testing by teachers, with analysis and revision by experienced curriculum writers before the finished lessons become available for use with the ExoLab modules.
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Marek, E.A. (2008). Why the Learning Cycle? Journal of Elementary Science Education, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Summer 2008), pp. 63-69.
National Research Council. (2015). Guide to Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards. Committee on Guidance on Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards. Board on Science Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
National Research Council. (2005). How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom. Committee on How People Learn, A Targeted Report for Teachers, M.S. Donovan and J.D. Bransford, Editors. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
National Research Council. (2007). Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8. Committee on Science Learning, Kindergarten Through Eighth Grade. Richard A. Duschl, Heidi A. Schweingruber, and Andrew W. Shouse, Editors. Board on Science Education, Center for Education. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
National Science Teachers Association. “Designing Units and Lessons.” NGSS@NSTA. ngss.nsta.org, 2014. Web. 30 June 2017.
Plants in Space | Unit Overview
The Plants in Space Unit introduces students to the science practices necessary to conduct rigorous investigations, with the goal of understanding the factors that affect plant growth on Earth and in space. Growing Arabidopsis plants in the ExoLab module provides an elegant way to collect comparable data in both settings, and the online environment students use gives them access to data organization, graphing, and analysis tools. Over the course of five lessons, students acquire the investigation skills and information they need answer the unit question: What do plants need to grow in space?
In the first lesson, students consider how to investigate plant growth in space and in the classroom using ExoLab. They answer the question: How can we use ExoLab to investigate plant growth? The are introduced to the problem context of the unit, which asks them to help bioengineers figure out how to grow plants to support human exploration beyond Earth.
In the second lesson, students design and run investigations in the classroom of the effect of light and water on plant growth. They answer the question: What do plants need to grow on Earth? To study the effect of light, eight plates with Arabidopsis seeds are provided; water is investigated by having students germinate seeds without soil. This is a multi-day lesson, with students setting up experiments and making daily observations for nine additional days (two elapsed weeks) before analyzing the data.
The third and fourth lessons ask students to consider the effect of different amounts of carbon dioxide on plant growth. They answer the question: How does carbon dioxide affect plant growth? This effect is harder to observe than the effect of light and water, so in Lesson 3 students will run experiments that can be compared directly to other groups in the class. This is also a multi-day lesson, with students setting up experiments and making daily observations for fourteen additional days (three elapsed weeks) before analyzing the data. Lesson 4 provides students with guidance in analyzing the data from their carbon dioxide experiments to understand the effect of carbon dioxide on plant growth. Students additionally practice communicating their investigation results in written form, the content of which is useful for assessment.
The first four lessons prepare students for the opportunity in Lesson 5 to investigate ExoLab data collected both in their classroom and on the International Space Station. They answer the question: Can plants grow as well in space as they do on Earth? They are challenged to brainstorm an investigation question related to how well plants grow in space, and then test their ideas about the effect of microgravity on plant growth by analyzing and interpreting ExoLab data.
Students learn life science content, specific to the factors that affect plant growth and photosynthesis, as delineated in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Disciplinary Core Ideas (see below for details). Students also learn how to perform the majority of Science and Engineering Practices in the NGSS, with an emphasis on Planning and carrying out investigations and Analyzing and interpreting data. They focus on the Cross Cutting Concept (CCC) of Cause and effect, while touching on other CCCs as well.
Content-based key concepts students learn are:
- Photosynthesis is the process plants use to make food from water, light, and carbon dioxide.
- We can use ExoLab to collect data about how well a plant is growing in space.
- We can use the ExoLab module to control the growing conditions of a plant, such as amount of light, air, and nutrients.
- Plants need energy from sunlight to grow.
- Plants need water to grow.
Lesson 3 and 4:
- Plants need CO2 from the air to grow.
- Plants can grow as well in space as they do on Earth as long as they have access to light, water, carbon dioxide, and moderate temperatures.
Vocabulary taught in this unit are: Control, Experiment, Photosynthesis (Lesson 1), and Variable (Lesson 2).
Expected prior knowledge:
- Basic plant structures include the stem, leaf, and root.
- In the scientific method, any experiment includes a control.
- In the scientific method:
- any experiment includes more than one variable that can be measured.
- data collection depends on precise and methodical measurements.
- graphing data and calculating average values are two ways to analyze data.
- Basics of photosynthesis, including: Energy from the sun converts carbon dioxide and water to sugar and oxygen.
- Plants use the sugar to make more complex sugars, starch, and cellulose, which make up the plant structure.
Materials (see lessons L1, L2, L3, L4, L5 for more information):
- ExoLab module (L1, L5)
- Prepared plates with Arabidopsis seeds (L2, L5)
- Optional: Videos of life and research on the International Space Station (L1)
- Fine-point permanent marker (L2, L3)
- Hand pump (e.g., balloon pump) (L3)
- Tape (L3)
- Knife (L3)
- Scissors (L3)
- Data from sunlight experiment in Lesson 2 (L4)
- Recommended: Lamp with broad spectrum light bulb (L3)
- Recommended: Timer for lamp (L3)
- For each group of 4: Materials for water experiment (suggested): (L2)
- 4 resealable quart sized bags
- 4 paper towels
- 12 seeds
- Graduated cylinder
- Plastic pipette
- Permanent marker
- Ruler (reusable)
- Tray (reusable)
- For each group of 4: Materials for carbon dioxide experiment: (L3)
- 3 clear 2-liter soda bottles
- 3 plastic saucers (~11 cm diameter at top, e.g., salsa containers)
- Potting soil (enough to fill saucers)
- 12 seeds
- Water soluble plant food
Next Generation Science Standards:
- Disciplinary Core Ideas [DCIs]
- LS1.B: Growth and Development of Organisms: Genetic factors as well as local conditions affect the growth of the adult plant.
- LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms: Plants, algae (including phytoplankton), and many microorganisms use the energy from light to make sugars (food) from carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and water through the process of photosynthesis, which also releases oxygen. These sugars can be used immediately or stored for growth or later use.
- Science and Engineering Practices [bold are emphasized in unit]
- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
- Disciplinary Core Ideas [DCIs]
- Planning and carrying out investigations
- Analyzing and interpreting data
- Using mathematics and computational thinking
- Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
- Engaging in argument from evidence
- Cross-cutting Concepts [bold is emphasized in unit]
- Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation
- Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation
- Performance Expectations [these are associated with specific DCIs, and are not listed per lesson]
- MS-LS1-5. Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms. [Clarification Statement: Examples of local environmental conditions could include availability of food, light, space, and water. Examples of genetic factors could include large breed cattle and species of grass affecting growth of organisms. Examples of evidence could include drought decreasing plant growth, fertilizer increasing plant growth, different varieties of plant seeds growing at different rates in different conditions, and fish growing larger in large ponds than they do in small ponds.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include genetic mechanisms, gene regulation, or biochemical processes.]
- MS-LS1-6. Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of energy into and out of organisms. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on tracing movement of matter and flow of energy.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the biochemical mechanisms of photosynthesis.]
Common Core Standards:
- English Language
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6–8.7: Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.2.D: Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.7: Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).
- 6.EE.9: Use variables to represent two quantities in a real-world problem that change in relationship to one another; write an equation to express one quantity, thought of as the dependent variable, in terms of the other quantity, thought of as the independent variable. Analyze the relationship between the dependent and independent variables using graphs and tables, and relate these to the equation.
- 6.SP.5.a: Summarize numerical data sets in relation to their context, such as by Giving quantitative measures of center (median and/or mean) and variability (interquartile range and/or mean absolute deviation), as well as describing any overall pattern and any striking deviations from the overall pattern with reference to the context in which the data were gathered.
- 7.RP.2: Recognize and represent proportional relationships between quantities.