The original post is on Facebook > Fort Worth Academy • 4/17/2020
When your class experiment involves growing plants in outer space, does it really matter if you are meeting on campus? Not at all.
The seventh and eighth grade classes, led by science teacher Lauren Parker, have been able to continue with their series of experiments on the International Space Station despite the closed campus. The experiments, known as ExoLab, explore how potential food crops grow in space. You could say the lessons are the ultimate in “distance” learning.
For ExoLab experiments, which are created and managed by Magnitude.io, Earthling students grow plants in a specially designed chamber. The International Space Station carries a second chamber–the same in every way–into space. Both chambers are equipped to sense and record data that the students can use for analysis as they track any difference between the growth of plants on Earth and in space. Both chambers also have cameras, allowing students to immediately see how well the plants are growing.
With the FWA campus closure, the Earth plants have been relocated to Mrs. Parker’s living room. The plants are still in their chamber, of course, which still transmits images and data.
“Each week, I tell the class which observations to use to compare our Earth plants with our plants on the International Space Station. Students use tools like Flipgrid and Padlet to share both their observations and their questions. They reply to each other’s responses and try to form explanations together.”
The students have participated in a series of these experiments; the picture here shows one from earlier this school year.
To wrap up each lesson, Mrs. Parker says, “I use their observations and questions to create videos that explore some of their questions and to point out things they may not have noticed.” The results? Students are engaged in learning with each other and with real science that could shape the future of living in space.
Mrs. Lauren Parker
7th and 8th grade Science, Fort Worth Academy, Fort Worth, Texas
Magnitude co-Principal Investigator