Space-Age Gardeners

By Eve Pranis

"The Root Loops activity in GrowLab: Activities for Growing Minds provided a great springboard for our third and fourth graders to explore how plants respond to gravity and other stimuli," reports Arcadia, IN, parent volunteer Debbie Mager. Students observed that each time they rotated the petri dishes with bean and corn seeds, the roots found their way downward. This prompted discussions about the effects of microgravity on the growth, flowering, and seed production of plants grown on space vehicles.

With an eye toward further exploring this concept, the class linked up with the CUE-TSIPS project (Collaborative Ukrainian Experiment Teachers and Students Investigating Plants in Space). Students raised, pollinated, and documented growth of one variety of Wisconsin Fast Plants, dubbed Astroplants, to later compare with those grown on the space shuttle under microgravity. "The students took their role in the project very seriously because they knew the information they gathered would be important to NASA," says Debbie. "They were intrigued with the project's Web site, which included photos of the plants grown in space and a compilation of student and astronaut data," she adds.

What did these young scientists conclude? For a look at student data, details on the project, and other ideas for investigations that simulate conditions in space, visit the Wisconsin Fast Plants server or call for a copy of the spring 1998 issue of Wisconsin Fast Plants Notes (1-800-462-7417).

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