Orbital Laboratory® allows students to perform experiments similar to those conducted by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). This program takes current or recently flown experiments and creates a classroom kit for teachers to use with their students. This kit uses the same seeds, similar growth media, and nutrient solutions to conduct these plant growth experiments in the classroom.
Along with the experiment, there are more than 20 lesson plans organized in three modules that teachers can use to introduce space science concepts to their students. The first module teaches students about the plants being grown, how to collect data about the plants, and what the results tell us about sustaining humans in space. The second module explains microgravity, the ISS, and ISS assembly. The third module covers human physiology in space to teach students about the effects of microgravity on the human body. All this and the online data notebook are included in the Orbital Laboratory subscription.
Payload 003 combines two different experiments that flew in space. The students grow soybeans and wheat in three kinds of growth media—potting soil, zeolite, and vermiculite—to determine which media is the best for long-term space flight. Students grow four plants in each of the growth media to give them a total of 12 plants. During the experiment, students measure the height of the main stem, keep track of the number of leaves, and record the dates on which life cycle events take place.
The plant growth experiment comes in a kit containing all the materials teachers will need for a successful experience. The kit contains seeds, growth media, pots, trays, tape, foil, stakes, ties, and a cardboard growth chamber. It does not include distilled water and rulers. The growth chamber allows students to experience the size constraints placed on plants grown in orbit. With the added benefits of online support and lesson plans, Orbital Laboratory is an engaging, easy-to-use experiment.
What sets the Orbital Laboratory experiment apart from other kits of its kind is the online data notebook. All data collected by students can be entered online, providing teachers with clear advantages. One benefit is teachers can view student data recordings by examining a classroom graph. This allows data to be viewed without printing tedious reports that could easily be lost. The second advantage is students and classrooms can compare their data to classrooms across the country and throughout the world. Students can easily communicate with other classrooms worldwide, providing increased interest in the program.
To measure student outcomes of the Orbital Laboratory program, there are a set of pre-tests and post-tests. The tests are broken down by lesson modules so teachers can target their curriculum choices based on student results. The tests are short and taken online. The results are sent to the teacher’s e-mail inbox to make grading easy. The tests are flexible in that teachers can have their students complete as many or few as desired.
The Astro-man figure highlights some of the changes the human body goes through in space. Learning the difference between a dicot vs. monocot , soybean vs. wheat, and the ISS vs. Space Shuttle are among the interactive activities on Space Explorers, Inc.’s website that make learning fun.
Learn about the International Space Station, science at the Space Station, shuttle launch, orbit, and landing. Students will come to understand what is involved in living in space, the effects of microgravity, and the scientific method through these tutorials.
View pictures of the Welcome Home Ceremony of STS-112 crew members. The crew was responsible for bringing home the soybean plants from the International Space Station.
National Science Standards
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