Grades 7,8,9 : LIFE SCIENCE - Activities 24 - 34

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Come Fly With Me! - Exploring science through aviation / aerospace concepts

David C. Housel and Doreen K.M. Housel, 1983.
Reproduced with permission


"We step out of our solar system into the universe seeking only peace and friendship, to teach if we are cal1ed upon, to be taught if we are fortunate." --Kurt Waldheim, Secretary General, U. N., 1977


  • to understand that different conditions than those of earth exist in the near vacuum of space.
  • to recognize the possibility of expanding human being's environment through the exploration of space.
  • to identify basic life needs of humans and to explore ways to provide for those in space.
  • to futurize about humans living in space and invent hypothetical space colonies.
  • to consider the psychological needs of persons who are isolated for long periods and to invent ways to provide for those needs.
  • to consider the environmental impact of flight in the atmosphere


SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
TIME: 2-45 minute periods
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Student Investigation
TEACHING STRATEGY: Expository and Guided Discovery
CONCEPTS: Closed Ecological System Oxygenation
SKILLS: Experimentation Observation Inference

Objective: To reinforce the concept of a "closed ecological system" and relate this concept to life on a spacecraft.

Materials: Three bottles or jars with tight covers; aquarium snails or guppies; aquarium water.

Teacher Background Information: The cabin of a space vehicle must be constructed so that it provides all of the conditions necessary to sustain life. Both the physical and the mental health of those on board must be considered. This experiment deals with the need for oxygen production and the removal of carbon dioxide from the cabin atmosphere.


Fill the three bottles with aquarium water. Into each jar place the following: Jar A - aquarium plants; Jar B - snails or guppies; Jar C - plants and snails or guppies. (Make sure there are enough plants and light for photosynthesis or the organisms will die.) Now, add more aquarium water to each jar so that they overflow slightly. Cap each jar tightly and allow them to stand for a few days.

Observe the jars after two days. Look for any changes and note any differences in behavior of the organisms. Continue this observation and recording for several more days.

Relate each jar to possible conditions in a space vehicle. What provisions were made in each jar for life support? What factor did time play in this experiment? What is meant by the term "closed ecological system"? What provisions would need to be made for astronauts on board the shuttle for a two week stay in space? How does what you must consider for the astronauts relate to the closed system in the jars? How has NASA dealt with these concerns on the Shuttle or in the Skylab?

Teacher Note: You may wish to use this as an introduction to the several activities which follow. The lessons cover environments in space for people and deal with oxygen, food, air pressure, temperature, etc., all necessary components of a closed environment such as a space vehicle.

Adapted from educational materials available from NASA Kennedy Space Center Teacher Resource Room

25. GASP!

SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
TIME: 60 minutes
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Student Investigation
TEACHING STRATEGY: Guided Discovery Expository
CONCEPTS: Anoxia Closed Environment Rate of Use
SKILLS: Experimentation Collecting and Interpreting Data

Objectives: To measure the rate at which oxygen is used in a closed environment; to understand the importance of knowing the rate at which oxygen is used in a closed environment.

Materials: 250ml flask or bottle; pipe cleaners; glass tube; ink; 1 one - hole rubber stopper to fit the flask; calcium hydroxide (lime water); small animal(s)-mouse or crickets or cockroaches, etc. (The smaller the organism, the slower the movement of the ink.)


Place a small animal(s) into the bottle along with a pipe cleaner soaked in calcium hydroxide. Stopper the bottle with the stopper containing a short glass tube. It is important to seal the bottle well or air leaking in may spoil the experiment.


Place a small drop of ink on the open end of the tube outside the bottle. Wipe off the excess. Observe the movement of the ink marker inside the tube. Calibrate the tube every minute until it enters the bottle. Use different numbers of animals in the flask or try different kinds of organisms. Calibrate the tube for each kind of organism. Can your students predict what the rate will be when several organisms are placed in the flask based on their data for a few or one? Why would it be important to know the rate at which an animal uses oxygen? Relate this to people on board a space craft.

Extensions: (1) Have the students explore the symptoms of anoxia (lack of oxygen) in humans. Think of ways to create oxygen on board a space craft.

(2) Have the students do Activity #84 - "Oxygen Production" in the K - 6 COME FLY WITH ME materials before they do this activity if you feel they need more background.


SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
TIME: 30 minutes
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Demonstration or Student Investigation
TEACHING STRATEGY: Guided Discovery Expository
CONCEPTS: Acidification Indicator Solutions Gas Solubility
SKILLS: Observation Inference Experimentation

Objective: To understand the importance of providing a low Carbon Dioxide environment for the inhabitants of a spacecraft.

Materials: Several Guppies; a small aquarium or other container for the Guppies; a 100ml flask or glass; straws; Bromo-thymol-blue (BTB [optional]).


Have a student blow for about a minute into a glass of water through a straw. Introduce a Guppy to the glass. Observe the behavior of the Guppy for about 10 - 15 seconds. Remove the Guppy and place it in the original container. Review with students that BTB is an indicator for acid. Add two drops of BTB to a clean glass of water and have a student again blow through a straw into the water. Discuss with the students what main gas is exhaled when breathing. Relate the exhaled gas to the behavior of the Guppy in the water with the high CO2 content.

Teacher Note: The Guppy would not survive for long in the water with the high Carbon Dioxide content. The CD causes the water to turn acidic and the guppy may try to jump out or will swim violently around the glass trying to get out. If the Guppy is removed after only a short time in the bad water, it will survive. Do not wait more than 10 or 15 seconds though before replacing it in the good water. The BTB should turn to a light green, then yellow and eventually nearly clear as the concentration of CO2 gets higher in the water. The students should conclude that a high concentration of Carbon Dioxide is not conducive to keeping an animal alive.

Extension: See the next lesson to review a method to remove excess Carbon Dioxide from the air we exhale.



SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
TIME: 45 minutes
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Teacher Demonstration
CONCEPTS: Solubility of Gasses Air Purification
SKILLS: Observation Inference Reading for Data

Objective: To understand that CO2 can be removed from exhaled air.

apparatus setup diagram

Materials: Three 250ml flasks or bottles; glass tubing; rubber tubing; three two - hole stoppers to fit containers; lime water - Ca(OH)2


Assemble the glass tubing, rubber Stoppers, rubber tubing as shown in the diagram.


Add lime water to each of the containers so that end of the long glass tubing in each will be covered. Be sure the short tube is clear of the liquid. Stopper bottles and have a student blow through one end of rubber tubing. The exhaled air will pass from one container to the next until it is expelled from the far end of the apparatus. Observe the color changes in containers. How do you account for the changes in the contents of each flask? Are all the containers the same now? What may have happened to cause them to be the way they are now?

Discuss with the students whether or not this system for the removal of Carbon Dioxide is a practical one for use on a spacecraft.

Extensions: Have the students explore NASA data to see how Carbon Dioxide is removed (scrubbed) from the air in a space vehicle. Explore the question: Why don't we have to remove CO2 from the atmosphere on Earth? Relate the removal of Carbon Dioxide to the process of photosynthesis in green plants. Plants have also been used on board space vehicles for the production of Oxygen.

Adapted from educational materials available from NASA Kennedy Space Center Teacher Resource Room


SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
GROUP SIZE: Small or Large
TIME: 2-60 minute periods
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Student Investigation
TEACHING STRATEGY: Open or Guided Discovery
CONCEPTS: Heat Reflection Absorption Solar Cooling
SKILLS: Hypothesizing Experimenting Interpreting Data

Objective: To set up an experiment to determine what colors and or materials reflect the most heat away from an enclosed container.

Materials: Three small corrugated cardboard boxes; several colors of construction paper or paint (be sure to include white and black); aluminum foil; three thermometers; clear sheet of acetate or plastic (overhead projection acetate is fine); tape.

Teacher Background Information: One of the major obstacles to living in space is temperature control. The temperatures inside a spacecraft may reach several hundred degrees if some method of cooling is not put into place. The early Skylab missions used a slow rate of rotation and shading as techniques to help cool. The Lunar Lander used gold foil on the outside to reflect heat away from vital components. Of course, air conditioning units are also carried aboard spacecraft as well as in space suits. However, if a spacecraft must remain in one place for any length of time, some method of assisting the cooling process must also be used.


Have the students speculate on how to go about testing for the cooling characteristics of several materials and colors on a closed container. Tell them to use containers which are about 15cm x 25cm x 5 to 1Ocm.

If you wish to make this a bit more directed activity, you may have them do the following: Construct three boxes which have a small hole punched in one end to allow the thermometer to be inserted. Place a sheet of colored paper on one side of the box and face this to the sun for about 30 minutes. Have the students record the temperature inside the box every 10 minutes. Try placing acetate over the colored paper and record the results including any differences in temperature from plain paper. Try foil and or several other materials, recording the results each time. Try lining the inside of the box as well as the outside with different materials. After all the trials, have the students graph their results and present their conclusions as to the best reflective material for heat dissipation.

During the 10 minute periods the students are waiting to record temperatures in the container, have them use another thermometer to measure the temperature near buildings, rocks and other structures where the sunlight falls at different angles or, in some cases, not at all. Have the students relate these readings to the effect of the angle of the sun on temperature. How might the angle of the sun affect the temperature inside their box?


  • (1) If you have access to an electric spit from a barbecue or a turntable device, have the students measure the temperature inside a container mounted on the device and compare the results with the other trials.
  • (2) See other solar experiments in the Earth Science section of this manual.
  • (3) The students may wish to use their data to construct a device to retain as much heat as possible for a solar energy heat source or cooker.
  • (4) Check out Activity #83 - "Shielding Against Heat and Cold" in the K - 6 COME FLY WITH ME materials.


SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
GROUP SIZE: Small or Individual
TIME: 2-45 minute periods
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Student Investigation
TEACHING STRATEGY: Guided Discovery Expository
CONCEPTS: Tropism Artificial Gravity Stimulus/Response
SKILLS: Experimentation Collecting and Interpreting Data

Objectives: To show tropism in plants and to show the effect of artificial gravity on the growth of plants.

plants in space apparatus illustration


  • (Activity 1) Lima bean seedlings; three test tubes; test tube clamps and ring stand; water; stoppers with hole.
  • (Activity 2) Several kinds of seeds - lima beans, corn, radish, etc.; glass jars; paper toweling.
  • (Activity 3) Phonograph turntable; several soil-less containers with plants (You may use the same setup as in Activity 1.

Procedure: (Activity 1)

Ask the students what they know about root growth and stem growth on Earth. Ask them to predict what might happen to the responses of roots and stems in a weightless environment. Now have them set up the following experiment to verify their predictions about the responses of roots and stems on Earth.

Fill three test tubes with water. Carefully place the root end of a lima bean seedling through the hole of a stopper so that the stem end is at the top of the stopper. Seal the hole with a little wax or clay. Place the stopper into a test tube. Repeat this procedure for the other two plants. Clamp the test tubes onto a ring stand as shown in the diagram below. After a few days have the students check to see what responses the roots and stems have exhibited. How are the stems growing? The roots? What stimulus do the roots seem to respond to?

(Activity 2)

Let the students germinate seeds between a paper towel and the inside of a glass container. After germination, note the position of the roots and stems. Have the students turn the apparatus on its side and observe the response of the roots and stem after a few days. What happened to the direction of these? Try turning the containers different amounts every few days. What happens to the roots and stems?

You can compare the effect of gravity on several kinds of plants if you would like by doing the following: Prepare six containers as in activity 2, placing three bean, three radish and three corn seeds in each container. After germination, turn two containers on their sides and two upside down. Leave two alone as a control. Observe the response of the stems and roots after several days. The students by now should be able to conclude that roots and stems respond to gravity. You may want to try some of these in the dark, if the students have not already suggested this, to control for the response to light. Have the students hypothesize what the response of roots and stems might be in a weightless environment.

Teacher Note: Experiments on the Skylab growing wheat seeds showed that geotropic plants were a bit confused by the weightlessness of space. Roots and stems grew in all directions. It was apparent that if plants were to be grown in space that a system for providing artificial gravity would have to be employed. If some of your students have been to Epcot Center, ask them if they saw the experiments in the Plant World pavilion. Several experiments are underway there for NASA.

(Activity 3): Attach soilless containers similar to those in activity 1 to the turntable of a phonograph. Observe the growth of roots and stems now. Does the spinning motion' of the turntable produce an artificial gravity? Do the plants behave in the same way as they did in activity 1? How are they the same or different?


SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
GROUP SIZE: Small or Large
TIME: Several short periods
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Student Investigation
TEACHING STRATEGY: Expository Guided Discovery
CONCEPTS: Filtration Bacteria Culture Water Purification
SKILLS: Experimentation Collecting Data Interpreting Data

Objectives: To understand that pure water must be carried or manufactured on board a space craft; to understand that there are ways of purifying water through filtration and distillation making it possible to use waste water.


  • (Activity 1) 2 liter jug and water;
  • (Activity 2) flask, one hole stopper, glass tube, rubber tubing, tray of ice cubes, beaker;
  • (Activity 3) sand, lamp chimney, cloth, rubber band, dirty water;
  • (Activity 4) aquarium, water, aquarium charcoal filter;
  • (Activity 5) filter paper, funnel and support, 20 grams of aluminum chloride (AlCl3), dilute sodium hydroxide [NaOH] solution, beaker.

Teacher Background Information: There are a number of reasons that water is a vital consideration while traveling in space. Water is needed most urgently for drinking. It is also needed for reconstituting some of the food carried on board, for hygiene, and for cooling. Because of the duration of flights and because the equipment through which water passes must be kept free of residue, the water used must be free of bacteria and precipitates. Clogged equipment or a culture of bacteria in the drinking water could spell disaster for the astronauts.

Procedure: (Activity 1)

Fill a CLEAN jug with tap water and let it stand for several weeks. Observe, taste and discuss the problems associated with storage of water over extended periods of time.

(Activity 2) Distill water by boiling it in a flask fitted with a one hole stopper containing a glass tube and a length of rubber tubing. Lay the tubing across a tray of ice cubes and collect drops of water from the end of the tubing. Discuss the physical changes that water goes through during the distillation process (evaporation and condensation). Examine the residue in the flask from which the water was distilled. Why might it be a good idea to use distilled water in a steam iron or in a storage battery? Why might a space vehicle need to use distilled water? Where on earth might it be necessary to be able to distill water for drinking purposes? (Anywhere materials need to be removed from the water which would make the water undrinkable, ie., on a ship in order to use sea water.)

(Activity 3) Demonstrate the filtration of water by placing about 5 centimeters of fine sand in a lamp chimney which has a piece of cloth fastened across the larger end. Pour dirty water on top of the sand. Collect the water as it drips through. What do you observe about the water compared to its original condition? How effective is the sand? What other materials might be used in place of sand? Try some.

(Activity 4) Put tap water into an aquarium and let it stand for several weeks without the filtration system being turned on. Observe the water and note any changes in color or smell. After several weeks, turn on the filtration system and observe the results.

(Activity 5) Moisten a piece of filter paper with water and place it in a funnel on a support stand. Dissolve 20g of aluminum chloride in 100ml of water in a beaker. Slowly add 10ml of dilute sodium hydroxide solution. Pour the solution through the filter paper. Observe the material left behind (aluminum hydroxide, an insoluble precipitate). This chemical and filtration system is another way to remove materials from a liquid which may damage equipment it passes through.

Extensions: Have the students find out about other substances which are used in aerospace which may have to be distilled or filtered to avoid potentially harmful residue, ie., fuel.


SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
TIME: Several short periods
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Teacher Demo or Student Activity
CONCEPTS: Sterile Environment Decontamination
SKILLS: Control of Variables Hypothesizing

Objective: To understand the importance of a sterile environment in which to test for the presence of alien life forms.

Materials: Dry beans (soaked in water overnight); four 250ml containers; water; iodine 3%; alcohol 70%; Lysol.


Place beans in each bottle and cover them with water. Add 10 drops of the following to each bottle in turn:

  • Bottle A - iodine
  • Bottle B - alcohol
  • Bottle C - Lysol
  • Bottle D - nothing

Stopper the bottles with cotton and allow them to stand in a warm place for two or three days. Examine the bottles periodically for cloudiness and odor. How does one account for any changes in color or odor in the bottles? What difference might using sterile bottles have made in this experiment? Would sterilization of the beans have made a difference? What would happen if different temperatures had been used? How many variables can you identify in this experiment? How many did you account for or control?

Now have the students consider the problems involved with testing for life forms in samples of soil from another planet or in the moon rocks. How easy is it to introduce contamination from the testing materials? Consider what kinds of problems were encountered in sterilizing an entire space vehicle before it was allowed to land on another planet. Why might this be so vital? What methods might you envision could be used to sterilize a spacecraft?

Adapted from educational materials available from the NASA Teacher Resource Room, Kennedy Space Center


SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
TIME: 2-60 minute periods
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Student Investigation
TEACHING STRATEGY: Expository and Guided Discovery
CONCEPTS: Calorie Combustion Heat Energy
SKILLS: Construction Experimentation Interpreting Data

Objectives: To understand that the energy produced by food may be measured by determining the heat produced by combustion of that food; to relate that concept to the energy produced during metabolism; to relate the above to the amount of calories needed by an astronaut in a weightless environment.

peanut calorimeter chart

Materials: Can; 250ml beaker; thermometer; graduated cylinder; centigram balance; wire screen; cork; needle; food (peanuts, pecans, sugar cubes, vegetable oil or hard cooked egg white)

Teacher Background Information:

The energy produced by the metabolism of food is precisely the same as that produced by burning the food (metabolism and burning are both oxidation processes). The heat produced by this process is measured in calories or BTU's. In most scientific work, the preferred unit is the calorie. A calorie is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 ml (lg) of water 1 degree Celsius. The calories we talk about when discussing food are actually kilocalories (the energy required to heat 1000ml of water 1 degree Celsius).

For very precise work, food is placed in a device called a bomb and lowered into a tank of water. The food is mixed with an exact amount of an oxidizer and all of the food is burned. Every bit of heat is measured by gently stirring the water and recording the temperature change. In this activity, even though not a precise experiment, a careful student should be able to realize results within 10% or so of actual values.


Prepare the calorimeter assembly as shown in the illustration. Punch the holes around the bottom of the can before the bottom is removed. The can will act as a chimney to concentrate the heat on the bottom of the beaker of water so it should be about the same diameter as the beaker. Place the needle into the cork and attach the food to be tested to the other end of the needle.

Measure the mass of the food to be tested on a centigram balance.

Measure the mass of the water. (It will be easier if the students try for amounts like 100g or 150g.)

Measure the temperature of the water. Ignite the food and quickly place the chimney over the food and the screen and beaker on top of the can. Continuously stir the water gently. As soon as the food has stopped burning, record the temperature of the water again. Keep recording the temperature until it stops climbing. It may continue to climb for a few moments after the food ceases to burn.

Compute the Kilocalories/Gram for the food burned.
KCal = (change in temperature)x(grams of water) / ((grams of food) x 1000)

Try the experiment again or compare with others who used the same food. Several trials make for better accuracy. Try the experiment with other foods.

Discuss what some of the special considerations for caloric intake might be for an astronaut in space. Would the requirements be the same in the weightlessness of space compared to training back on Earth? Why or why not?

Try the "Run To The Moon" activity next. Keep your calculator handy!!

Helpful Hints:

If you use vegetable fats during your test you may find them difficult to handle. You can make them easier to burn by soaking a little cotton or fiberglass with the oil first then igniting the cotton. Burn a measured amount of cotton first under some water and compute the caloric value of the cotton. Use the same amount of cotton soaked in fat or oil and subtract the first value for the cotton alone from your second results to compute the calories in the fat alone. A sugar cube will burn a little easier if you rub a few ashes on it first.


For all practical purposes, all fats give off the same amount of calories and for all carbohydrates the caloric value is the same. In the experiments above, the vegetable oil would be a fat and the sugar cube would be a carbohydrate. The caloric value of protein can be found by subtracting the percentage values for fat and carbohydrate in a food from the total. what is left is the value for protein. Have the students compute the average values for fat and carbohydrates from their data and then compute the values for protein using the following chart.

Adapted from educational materials available from NASA Spacemobile program


FOOD KCal/Q %H2O % Protein % Fat %Carbohydrates
Almond 6.4 4.7 18.6 54.1 19.6
Navy Bean 3.5 10.5 22.0 1.5 62.1
Bread, white 2.61 35.9 8.5 2.0 52.3
Cheese, cheddar 3.93 39.0 23.9 32.3 1.7
Cooking oil, Crisco 9.00 .. .. 100.0 ..
Egg, white boiled .57 .. 12.3 .6 ..
Lard 9.30 .. .. 100.0 ..
Peanuts, roasted 6.00 2.6 26.9 44.2 23.6
Popcorn, popped 4.03 5.0 10.7 5.0 78.7
Pecans 7.47 3.0 9.4 73.0 13.0
Soybeans, dry 3.51 7.5 34.9 18.1 12.0
Sugar, white 3.98 0.5 .. .. 99.5
Walnuts, black 6.57 6.0 27.6 56.3 10.0
Walnuts, English 7.02 3.3 15.0 64.4 15.6
Zweiback bread 4.22 6.0 9.8 9.9 73.5

Teacher Note: The values for Fats, Protein and Carbohydrate follow. You may wish to cut this off before reproducing this for you students if you want them to do their own computations.

  • Fats 9
  • Protein 4
  • Carbohydrate 4


SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
GROUP SIZE: Large Group
TIME: 2-45 minute periods
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Student Investigation
TEACHING STRATEGY: Expository Guided Discovery
CONCEPTS: Calorie Energy/Mass Time and Distance
SKILLS: Reading and Interpreting Data Interpolating Data Using a Stopwatch

Objective: To provide students with an opportunity to determine how long it would take them to run to the moon and to relate that time to the energy requirements for a human and for a spacecraft making the same trip.

Activity sheet for "A RUN TO THE MOON"

Materials: Stopwatch; meter tape; activity sheet provided; optional - a loaf of white bread).

Teacher Background Information: The following activity is included to provide students with an opportunity to use some large numbers in determining how long it would take them to run to the Moon. In addition, information related to the energy requirements is furnished so that students can get some idea how much energy would be required for them to make such a voyage. Following the first part of the lesson, the students are asked to relate their own speed with that of a Saturn Rocket and to compute the energy requirements of the rocket for the same voyage.


Hand out the activity sheet and ask that the students read the top and do Step 1 together with you. Together, set up an area outside which is 50 meters long and do Step II. After each student has recorded their time across the 50 meter run, have them use the graph on their activity sheet to compute the number of days it would take to run to the Moon.

Now, do part 2 of the activity sheet together. Do an example on the board so that everyone knows how to calculate the first question. Have them compute how many hamburgers it would take to fuel them for the run. Talk over the next two questions with them and ask them to determine what additional information they may need to answer.

The following day,have them compute the answers to questions 1 and 2 in Step IV using the data they have collected over night. First, determine the number of slices of bread in the loaf of sandwich bread you have brought to class. (The students may have been asked to find this out overnight.) Second, determine the weight of each slice by dividing the number of slices into the weight of the loaf. Third, Multiply the weight of each slice by the number of slices it would take to run to the moon. Fourth, divide this weight by 1000 to yield how many kilograms of bread it would take. Fifth, dividing the student's weight (mass) into the total weight of the bread in their "get to the Moon loaf" will yield the number of kilograms of bread to get one kilogram of kid to the moon.

Now, carry the exercise one step further. Explain to the students that our largest launch vehicle, Saturn V, can lift about 45,000 kg into orbit. This is the vehicle that took us to the Moon. It is 111 meters tall and, when fueled, has a mass of about 3,000,000 kg. The fuel alone has a mass of 2,700,705 kilograms. Dividing the payload of 45,000 kg into the total propellant mass yields a ratio of about 60 kg of fuel to lift 1 kg of payload into orbit. How does this compare with the students calculations on the kilograms of bread to lift one kilogram of student into orbit?

Extension: Have the students calculate their travel time and energy requirements to other planets in the solar system. See the activity, "How Long 'Till we Get There?" Discuss limiting factors on the speed of spacecraft. What might be some things that would slow a space vehicle down?

What might be some alternative energy forms to be used in space? Huge sails pushed by light have been suggested. What might other sources be? What might be the consequences of the use of nuclear fuel?

Adapted from educational materials available from NASA Spacemobile program 120

Activity sheet for "A RUN TO THE MOON"

This activity will give you the chance to determine how long it would take you to run to the Moon. In addition, you will determine how much energy it would take you to make the run. Have fun !!

Step I: Estimate how many days, you think it would take you to run to the Moon if the average distance to the Moon is 386,000 kilometers _______ days.

Step II: Determine the time it takes you to run 50 meters. Measure the time with a stop watch and record the time _______ seconds.

Step III: Use the chart provided to determine how many days it wou1d take you to run the distance to the Moon. days.

Activity sheet for “A Run To The Moon"

Energy requirements for a long run to the moon:

A calorie, remember, is defined as the amount of energy required to heat one gram of water one degree Celsius. Remember also, that the food Calorie is really a kilocalorie (1000 calories, denoted with a capital "C"). The Calorie content of food is an important value to know since different foods provide different amounts of Calories and therefore, provide different amounts of energy to the user for different tasks. If an individual takes in more Calories than needed the excess is stored as fat.

A slice of bread contains about eighty Calories. Knowing this value, it is possible to determine the number of Calories and also the number of slices of bread it would take to fuel you for your run to the Moon.

As an example, it took a person running 50 meters every 15 seconds, 1342 days to travel the distance to the Moon. Multiply the days by 24 hours to get the number of hours to the Moon. If the average person burns about 864 Calories per hour while jogging, you can determine the Calories needed to run to the Moon by multiplying 864 times the number of hours to the Moon.

1342 x 24 hours/day x 864 Calories/hour = 27,827,712 Calories to the Moon

Divide the total number of Calories by 80 (Calories in a slice of bread) to get the number of slices of bread you would have to take with you to eat along the way.

27,827,712 Calories / 80 Calories/slice = 347,846 slices
  • Question 1. How many slices of bread must you eat to make it to the Moon?
  • Question 2. How high would a loaf of bread with this many slices be (clue: if a slice were 1.5cm thick, the loaf in the example above would be 1.5cm x 347,846 = 434,808cm high. About 4.3 kilometers - 2.7 miles high)
  • Question: If a double cheeseburger with lettuce, pickles, sauce, and tomato has 500 Calories, how many burgers would it take you to get to the Moon?
  • Question : If you stacked those burgers up, how high would the stack be? How much would all this cost?

Next time someone wants to send you to the Moon, tell them it‘s going to cost a "lot of bread" baby!!!


SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
TIME: 45 minutes
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Teacher Demonstration
CONCEPTS: Pressurized Environment Boiling and Altitude
SKILLS: Observation Inference Hypothesizing

Objectives: To understand how air pressure affects the boiling temperature of water; to relate this concept to the boiling point of blood and the need for a pressurized environment for humans in space.

Materials: Pyrex flask; stopper for flask; ring stand; heat source; glass or sponge; cold water; hot pads; pan to catch water.


Fill flask with water 1/3 to 1/2 full. Bring the water to a brisk boil for at least 10-15 seconds. Turn off the heat source. Stopper the flask tightly (the water should stop boiling). USE HOT PADS to invert the flask on the ring stand. Pour cold water from the glass over the flask after placing a pan under the apparatus to catch the runoff. The water should begin to boil again. what may have caused the water to boil again? Does water always boil at the same temperature? Read the instructions on a cake mix box for high altitude baking. Why do you suppose it is necessary to cook for longer periods of time at high altitude? Could water boil at room temperature? How can you make a liquid boil without raising the temperature?

Safety Note: Do not use ice water. Cold water from the tap should work fine. Extremely cold water can cause such a pressure difference that the flask can implode. Do this as a demonstration and wear goggles.

Teacher Note: As the cold water is poured over the flask the steam inside will be cooled and will condense causing a lower pressure inside the flask. The lower the pressure the lower the boiling point of liquids. Relate the concepts learned in this lesson to the temperature of blood and the need for pressure suits or a pressurized cabin in a space craft. Pilots of aircraft which fly at high altitudes have used pressure suits for years. The "G" suits which some pilots use are to keep the blood in the upper part of the body (especially the brain) during high G maneuvers which might drain too much blood to the extremities (away from the brain) and thus cause a blackout. A space suit does not work in this way. It provides a pressurized atmosphere for the astronaut.


SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
GROUP SIZE: Large in pairs
TIME: 30 to 45 minutes
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Student Investigation
TEACHING STRATEGY: Expository and Discovery
CONCEPTS: ESP Telepathy "Fair" Experiments
SKILLS: Identification and Control of Variables

Objectives: To duplicate ESP experiments tried by some of the astronauts; to develop methods of experimental data collection and experimental control.

illustration of Data Sheet
ESP card

Materials: ESP cards from study sheet; data recording sheet for each student.

Teacher Background Information: An experiment which took place on one space flight dealt with ESP and Telepathy.

An astronaut tried to "send" thoughts to a person on the ground and visa versa. Quite a bit of scientific work is going on now in both the United States and Russia to test whether or not persons do have some ability to send information by thought wave alone. The following activity uses the same ESP cards the astronauts used in their experiment.


  1. Run off the cards from the activity sheet on card stock or heavy paper if possible. You will need 5 each of the 5 designs.
  2. Have students make a data sheet. (See illustration)
  3. Have the students consider how to set up a "fair" experiment. What variables need to be controlled? How should the data be recorded? How will a record of the actual cards turned be recorded? How should the data be evaluated? What is the probability of a correct response by chance? How many correct responses indicate ESP sensitivity?
  4. Suggested format...Have two students take a set of twenty five cards out of sight of the other students. Have one student turn the cards over one at a time and think of the card turned. Have the second student record on a response sheet what the card was and say "first card, second card," etc. until all twenty five have been turned. Have the students record the number of the card under the symbol on their sheet. (see the sample).
  5. Have the students circle their correct responses as a student reads from the master list.
  6. Repeat the experiment at least one more time and preferably twice.
  7. Evaluate the data. If there are students who consistently get more than 9 or 10 correct responses try to test them separately. Some researchers say that about one in five persons has ESP powers. How does your class data stack up against this?

Extensions: Research the findings of the astronauts. Try additional experiments in ESP including: A. Clairvoyance, B. Precognition, C. Psychokinesis.


SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
TIME: 45 minutes
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Teacher Demo Student Research
TEACHING STRATEGY: Guided Discovery Open Discovery
CONCEPTS: Environmental ~ Impact Pollution
SKILLS: Observation Inference Research

Objectives: To help students understand how aircraft have impacted on the environment with positive results and with problems that need to be considered.

environment apparatus setup illustration

Materials: Books, pamphlets, encyclopedias on aircraft and what they do; model rocket; 1/2A engine; 2 ring stands; ring stand test tube clamp; ring stand upright; 2 clamps or wire; model rocket ignition system.

Teacher Background Information: Set up the ring stand "launcher" as follows: Attach the extra ring stand upright between the two stands with clamps (or wire the rod to the stands). Attach the test tube clamp to the rear ring stand. Insert the rocket engine in the clamp with the nozzle pointing away from the stand.


If a vented hood is available, aim the rocket exhaust into the hood, If you do not do this experiment outdoors, ventilate the room right after the rocket is fired. Remember, the rocket discharges forward also.


Ask the students to observe very carefully all that happens during and after the rocket "launches." Set off the rocket and ask them to relate what happened. "It went forward," will surely be followed by "It was loud" and “It smells!" Focus on the pollutants it leaves: noise, smell, smoke, etc. Think through with the students what sorts of environmental ramifications there may be as we send shuttle crafts up every 10 days or so. If this little rocket can do what it does, have them imagine what 2 rocket boosters such as those on the Shuttle must be like.

Second, discuss some of the possible negative environmental results of any aircraft being launched today. (Noise? Emissions? Cementing over of acres of land? Crop dusting pollutants?)

Third, have the students brainstorm and list the positive environmental impact of aircraft in the atmosphere. (Use in agriculture to seed, fertilize, apply herbicides and insecticides? in livestock production? forest management? logging? game management? freight hauling? people-moving?, etc.)

Fourth, question the data as you go. What do the students know and understand about what the use of aircraft can do environmentally? Are there facts to support contentions that something is beneficial rather than harmful in the final analysis? Where can they look to find facts to support or refute what they think they know?

Fifth, after the students have brought as much information to the discussion as they can, fill in any spots you feel are important and then ask the class to help you categorize the elements discussed into general areas of environmental concern and areas of environmental benefit. Have groups research information about the environmental impact of aircraft in the atmosphere and check if the original understandings were supported or not. Provide time and materials for searching and have the students share their data with the whole class.


SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
TIME: Several Days
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Student Investigation
TEACHING STRATEGY: Open Discovery Guided Discovery
CONCEPTS: Spinoff Technology Research Benefits
SKILLS: Research Hypothesizing Inference

Objective: to help students understand the "Spinoff" benefits of the space program for those of us on Earth.

spinoffs from space illustration

Materials: Various books, pamphlets web sites on "spin offs" from the space program.

Procedure: 1. Ask your students to think of the things we now have because of the space program. Write the responses on the board and have someone keep a written record of them. (Most of the initial responses will quite likely be about the Space Shuttle, missiles or rockets, etc., and there will surely be a number of benefits the class will be unaware of.

2. When they have finished, explain that there are numerous benefits from the exploration of space and they can be broken into some basic categories:
a. Communication Satellites
b. Weather Satellites
c. Landsat
d. Oceanic Observers
e. Defense
f. Medical
g. Other Technological Benefits (like freeze-dried food, alternative energy sources, computers, fabrics, metal processing, etc.)

3. Break the class into seven groups and have them research the benefits of space with a focus on their specific area of concern.

4. Have the students spend some time searching for information and collecting their data. Encourage students to visit NASA sites for information on the benefits of the space program.

5. After gathering their data, have the students compile the information in a booklet with illustrations of some of the benefits they have found.

6. Bring the class together for a discussion and sharing of the booklets. Prior to class, write the original list of benefits the students had thought of on the board and then have each group present their booklet to the rest of the group. As benefits are presented, have someone write on the board those that were not brought up in the original discussion and compare the two lists.


SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
TIME: 60 minutes
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Discussion and Student Investigation
TEACHING STRATEGY: Guided Discovery Expository
CONCEPTS: g Forces Gravity weightless
SKILLS: Hypothesizing Inference Collecting Data

Objectives: To provide an approximation of what it feels like in a weightless atmosphere; to relate earthbound activities to space activities.

free fall data sheet

Materials: Activity sheet (following lesson); graph paper; water bucket with water.

Procedure: 1. Before getting into a discussion of weightlessness in space, ask your students to- imagine taking a bucket and filling it part way with water and swinging it over their heads. What will happen? Get the bucket and begin swinging the bucket back and forth. What happens to the water? Now, swing the bucket completely around over your head. What do the students observe about the water? Is it falling up into the bucket? Why? (anti-gravity)

2. Have the students imagine riding an elevator while standing on a bathroom scale. This is a thought experiment, so ask them to really get in touch with feelings they have experienced in elevators and then start them at the top floor. Ask them to imagine they are on the 20th floor standing on a scale. They push the button for the basement. What will happen to the reading on the scale? How long will this wonderful diet go on? What happens when the elevator slows down for its basement stop? (gain weight slightly) What happens when the elevator comes to a complete stop? (back to normal weight) Why does all of this happen?

3. If they are having trouble figuring it out, have them image jumping off a diving board while sitting on the scale. What would the scale read as they fly through the air? What can this be compared to?

4. Discuss some of the times when a person could feel what it's like to be "weightless." Free-falling from a plane, just after a person crests a hill in a car, diving in a parabolic arc in a plane, are three examples. If no one mentions some of the rides at the amusement park, bring them up: the roller coaster, the free fall (Demon Drop or Texas Cyclone), the rotor, the parachute drop and the Enterprise or the wheelie.

As you discuss some of these rides, talk about when the rider is falling down, falling up, is weightless or is pulling more g's than usual.

A. Roller Coaster:

What happens when you suddenly drop over the crest of a big roller coaster? What do you imagine your weight is at that point? what happens to the stomach in the valley of the roller coaster? Why? (Because you can go so fast, you can feel 3 g's and that's what astronauts pull at blast off of the Space Shuttle.) When you are back up again and have reached the second hilltop, what can you expect to feel at the peak? Do you know what this free fall curve is called? (parabola) What happens when you're in a roller coaster with loops? (You fall up, just like the water in the bucket.) If you had a ball tied to string that was tied to your wrist, what would happen to it as you fell up?

B. The Enterprise or Wheelie:

This ride is almost a life-size version of the water bucket experiment. The bucket is now a padded car and the person gets to play the water. The rope attached to the bucket is replaced by a set of support beams that extend 25 feet from the center to the seat of each car. Ask the students to imagine the cars building up speed and tilting until riders orbit in a nearly vertical circle at a rate of 4 seconds per turn at a speed of 27 miles per hour. Why is speed so important?

What does the body pushing against the back of the car tell you about the g force? Where would the force be greatest - at the top or at the bottom? Why? Explain to the students that before the Apollo moon missions, astronauts trained on a faster version of the super-gravity machine. It was called a centrifuge. Those tests of human reactions to g forces provided the data to guarantee that the wheelie is a safe ride. (Another “spin-off" from the Space Program!?!) Ask how the students might relate this ride to giant space stations orbiting the earth. How could the concept be used that way? Where on this spinning station, would it be most comfortable for people to walk about?

C. The Rotor:

This is a turning barrel with a floor that drops down about a foot once the 12.5 foot barrel is spinning at full speed. Why do they have to wait until it has sped up? It turns at about 35 turns per minute - about the rate of a long playing record - and produces a g force of over 2.5. Why are 2.5 g's necessary to this ride? What happens when the floor drops away? Why don't all the people fall down? How could this concept be used for space vehicles orbiting in space?

  • 5. Hand out the activity sheet and talk about the Demon Drop or Texas Cliffhanger free fall ride.

where does weightlessness occur? Where would they feel the largest number of g forces? Make sure your students understand the way the ride works so the data recorded will make sense to them. There are two parts to the activity. (a) Have the students use the first page of the activity sheets to do a graph of the two persons' pulse rates; and (b) have the students complete the answers on the second page of the activity sheets. Discuss with them, the physiological and the psychological ramifications of rides such as these. How do those ramifications relate to astronauts in space or, indeed, to any of us who might someday live and work in space?

Extension: Talk with the students about what other kinds of data one could collect at an amusement park and the ways the data could be recorded and then analyzed. (Things like: What's the most popular ride? What's the average wait time on specific rides? What's the most common comment made by people as they come off a particular ride? How many people come to the park in an hour on average? What's the ratio of adults to children etc., etc.?) Talk about how important some of that information could be to the park owners and managers and how they use information like that. Make plans to visit an amusement park with your students, armed with specific questions you want answered and a scientific method to obtain those answers.


Joan Prukop is a 30 year old physical science teacher riding the Texas Cliffhanger (Cedar Point calls it the Demon Drop) for the first time.

Katie Jackson is a 13 year old student riding the Texas Cliffhanger for the second time (the first time on the recording day).

1. Where on the ride does Katie's pulse rate peak?

2. Where does Joan‘s pulse rate peak?

3. Offer a possible explanation for the difference

4. Which rider's pulse rate drops back to normal more quickly?

5. In this ride, does the anticipation of the drop seem to cause pulse rates to rise?

6. What seems to be the effect on pulse rates of moving the riders slowly toward the drop? (points C-D)

7. What is the pulse gain for Joan? (% gain) What is the pulse gain for Katie? (% gain)

8. What variables are there here that should be considered when com- paring the two recordings? Can you make any generalizations from from these two pieces of data?

9. Which ride at an amusement park seems the most fear-inducing to you? Why do you think you feel as you do?


SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
TIME: 60 minutes
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Discussion and Student Activity
TEACHING STRATEGY: Guided Discovery Expository
CONCEPTS: weightless Atrophy Conditioning
SKILLS: Reading for Information Measuring

Objectives: To understand some of the problems the body faces while living in a weightless atmosphere; to apply the information in devising exercise equipment to offset the problems.

Physical activity in space illustration

Materials: Ramificatons of living in space. Books and pamphlets on the physical


1. Talk with the students about what some of the problems of living in a weightless condition might be. Ask them to think about how their body functions in an atmosphere of 1 g.

  • a. How hard is it to walk up hill?
  • b. How much effort does it take to ride a bike?
  • c. How are their muscles used to lift things?
  • d. What sort of exercise do they get when they run?
  • e. Are their legs, arms, lungs and heart all affected by exercise?
  • f. How does gravity enter the picture here?
  • g. What might happen to people who are unable to use their arms or legs for long periods of time, for example, when people have to stay in bed for several weeks?

How vital is exercise to a well conditioned body? How important is gravity and the resistance it provides to a well-conditioned body?

2. Discuss what might happen, then, if people were to try to live for long periods without gravity. Have the students make some predictions based on the earlier discussion.

3. Have the students do some research on what space scientists have found out about the body's response to weightlessness. Spend some time gathering information and sharing it in class.

4. Finally, have the students devise, either on paper or with a model, a compact, useful piece of exercise equipment that will help solve at least one of the physiological problems caused by weightlessness.

Remind them to think about such things as:

  • Atrophy of the muscles - loss of muscle mass, especially in the legs - loss of calcium and bone strength - how to keep the person attached to the equipment - how to provide resistance in micro-gravity conditions - how to provide aerobic conditioning WHILE THEY ARE AT IT...ask your students to keep a look out for answers to such questions as:
  • Why are people taller in space?
  • Why is the heart rate lower in space?
  • Why does a person's face swell in space?

When the students are ready to share their exercise equipment models or drawings, see if anyone has also run across some answers to the "extra questions" and can share them with the class.

Also, if anyone has thought of a question he or she would like answered, see if the class can think of ways to possibly find the necessary information.

Extension: Check the K - 6 COME FLY WITH ME materials for the following activities which relate to the body in space: #62-Pilot Test, #63-Human Reaction Time, #64-Lung Capacity, #90-Recording Heart Rate, #91- Physical Fitness in Space.


SUBJECT: Science &»
GRADE: 7,8,9
TIME: 60 minutes
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Student Investigation TEACHING STRATEGY Open Discovery Guided Discovery CONCEPTS; Psychological needs Living in Space
SKILLS: Hypothesizing Working in Groups Inference

Objective: To give students the opportunity to understand some of the psychological needs of living in an enclosed environment in space.

psychological needs illustration

Materials: Paper and pencils.


  1. Have students break up into groups of six or seven. Try to see to it that the groups are as heterogeneous as possible.
  2. Ask each group to spend ten minutes brainstorming the psychological needs of people living together in a closed environment. Ask them to imagine that the vehicle is occupied by the six or seven people in their group, that the space they occupy is approximately the size of an average classroom and they are to be in this space for twelve days. Each group should have someone jot down what the group comes up with.
  3. After they have spent 10 minutes brainstorming, inform them that the reentry ability of the capsule has malfunctioned and that ground control has determined that they cannot return for a year when they estimate the engineers will have a rescue vehicle built capable of picking them up and returning them to earth.
    All other areas of concern are taken care of: food is plentiful, all systems for pressurizing and decontamination, for example, are fine. Now, what other psychological considerations are there to be concerned with since the trip will take a whole year? Have them brainstorm and keep notes.
  4. Bring the groups together and share what each of them came up with. How did the two periods of time affect their lists of psychological concerns? Can they prioritize some of the concerns? How important are the psychological ramifications to a successful living arrangement in a closed environment in space?
  5. Finally, have the students work together in their groups to design a craft that is expected to be in space for two years. Assume all physical considerations have been met, but the groups are to imagine they are psychologists who are responsible for determining the most appropriate and emotionally healthy way to provide for the psychological ramifications of living in space for two years. How would they provide for these in the design of the craft? Ask each group to share their craft and the ideas they come up with with the larger group. Drawings or models with explanations would be fun.
  6. After the sharing, discuss whether there were differences in how each of the groups approached their task. Were there any differences in what was deemed as psychologically important to the members of the various groups? Were there differences in what members within groups felt was important? Is it helpful to have a meaningful cross-section of people with a variety of perceptions when groups engage in discussions of this sort? Have them check out how NASA approaches problem solving questions such as this.


SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
TIME: Several Days
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Student Investigation TEACHING STRATEGY Guided Discovery Discussion
CONCEPTS: Nutrient Medium Extraterrestrial life
SKILLS: Experimentation Interpreting Data Hypothesizing

Objectives: To demonstrate how to collect and grow living things in a nutrient medium; to relate the experiment to scientists searching for life in space.

Materials: Refrigerator jars, plastic butter tubs or covered Petri dishes; bread.

Teacher Background Information: Molds, yeasts, or similar micro-organisms can be found almost anywhere in the world. Any bit of material, whether of air, water, or earth, contains numerous examples of such micro-organisms. Under ideal conditions, they sprout into lush, spectacularly beautiful, microscopic jungles.

This simple form of life offers space scientists a means of investigating the possibility of life on other planets. Scientists believe there is a greater possibility that this type of plant life, or something comparable, would be associated with other living things. Accordingly, they have designed small robot instruments which land on the surface of distant planets and draw some of the surrounding material inside and drop it into a culture medium. Periodically, this liquid food is checked for chemical changes and the container for temperature or atmospheric composition changes. This information is transmitted back to the earth where the biological scientists compare it with already existing knowledge.


A covered refrigerator dish or clean glass jar makes a good environmental area for some types of microorganism growth.

  1. Have students obtain a supply of molds by rubbing a piece of bread across a carpet or other floor area. Moisten the bread and put it into a covered environmental area for several days. (Since molds and related plants do not possess chlorophyll, they should flourish without sunlight.)
  2. After several days, have the students examine the growth with a low powered microscope or hand lens. Viewing is best with a bright light falling on the surface of the growth. Ask students to notice the rate and types of growth as well as changes in the base materials.
  3. Ask students to think of experiments scientists might do in order to determine if life exists on another planet. Why would it be important to determine this? Might there be a need for protection from some microbes in space? Discuss virulent and benign forms of microorganisms.
  4. Ask the students what finding microorganisms in space might say about the likelihood of finding more complicated forms of life in space. Relate this experiment to the Voyager experiments and have the students do some research on how the scientists went about looking for life and what they found. Relate this activity to your general study of mycocetes.


SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
TIME: Several periods
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Student Research Constructing Models
TEACHING STRATEGY: Open Discovery Guided Discovery
CONCEPTS: Living on the Moon Colonies Human Needs
SKILLS: Reading for Data Futurizing Construction

Objectives: To provide students with a greater understanding of the moon; to apply concepts of the moon to futurizing about what it would be like to live and work there.

living on the moon - illustration

Materials: Books, pamphlets, and online sites about what we've learned about the moon.

Teacher Background Information: Just as Galileo's telescopic observations of the moon opened a new era in modern astronomy, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin‘s walk on the moon opened a new discipline in science - lunar science. Since it is quite likely that we and our students will see some sort of colonizing of the moon, it is important for our young people to know more about our nearest neighbor and potential home away from home.

In addition, it is important that students attempt to futurize - to use what they understand and know to be true now to try to predict what life might be in the future. Only with this ability will they have even a minimal chance of controlling their futures and we owe them, at least, that.


  1. Discuss with the class some of the things they understand to be true about the moon (our nearest neighbor in space; accessible by Saturn rocket and lunar lander as well as other rockets; one sixth the gravity of earth; waterless, airless and lifeless; similar crust and about the same age as earth; pummeled by meteorites; cratered; sunlit on one side, for example). As questions arise, write them down and devise ways with the class to find answers.
  2. Explain to the students they will need to know as much as they can about the moon in order to do some intelligent futurizing about a moon colony they could live on. Provide the students with the resource material you have and time to check further with the library or to write for information if materials are scarce.
  3. Once the students have some information from which to work, break them up into groups of 3 or 4 and explain they will be constructing a "moon city" out of whatever materials they wish to use.
  4. Explain to the students that this is a very integrated activity. They should know that they will be expected to use their skills in science, mathematics, architecture, sociology, psychology, political science and economics. They will be expected to consider health care, education and the question of who's in charge on this colony. It is expected that, though people can travel back and forth from the city to the earth (just as some raw materials and finished goods will) most of the people will live out their lives on the moon city and all contingencies for life must be accounted for.

The teacher's ability to encourage students to focus on what they know and what they need to find out before and during the construction is very important. It is very easy for students to fall into science fiction without reality based concepts and, though that can be fun, it does not help to meet the objectives of this lesson. Make certain the students know that evaluation will be based on what you have explained are your expectations about the project. In addition, they will be evaluated on how well they discuss their "city" and answer questions from the class about it.


43 SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
TIME: Several periods
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Modeling Student Research
TEACHING STRATEGY: Open Discovery Guided Discovery
CONCEPTS: Colonization of Space Human Needs
SKILLS: Hypothesizing Futurizing Construction

Objective: To utilize understanding of the hostile environment of space in constructing a model space colony.

Materials: ANYTHING YOU CAN THINK OF! Styrofoam or paper plates, hamburger and pie containers; cardboard rolls; straws; Styrofoam or paper cups; plastic soda bottles; flat cardboard, felt pens; string; toothpicks; glue; scissors; Exacto knives; masking tape; bits and pieces of colored paper; paint; styrofoam "peanuts" (they make great space people).


(A) Brainstorming.

  1. Write "The Year 2084" on the chalkboard and circle it.
  2. Ask students to share what kinds of things they think we would have to concern ourselves with if we were living in space in the year 2084. Jobs, food, entertainment, oxygen, gravity, schooling, plants, storage, enclosed environment, etc. are some of the things that will likely come up. As they share, discuss the problems that are involved with each. Search for solutions. Share ideas with each other.
  3. Ask the class whether they really feel we will be able to live for long periods in space in the year 2084. Sooner? Later? What will a space colony look like? What might we have a space colony for? These can be pretty important questions and the students should be encouraged to use all the information they have gathered through their aerospace and other activities to think about them.
  4. Ask the class to make some predictions about the future and discuss the difficulty of making predictions in such swiftly changing times. Talk about how it is more vital than ever to learn how to think rather than learning how to memorize out of date answers.
  5. Explain that groups of students will be constructing their own space colony starting the following day and they should be thinking about what they would like that colony to look like. Show them what you have gathered in the way of materials and encourage them to bring whatever else they think they will need.

(B.) Construction.

  1. Divide the class into groups of 4-5.
  2. Explain that each group will construct a space colony where people live and work.
  3. Explain that, at the end of the construction, the group will be responsible for explaining their construction, what the various parts of, the colony are for, how concerns such as weightlessness, lack of oxygen, decontamination, energy, entertainment, learning, sleeping, loneliness, etc., are being met on the colony. In addition, they should be able to talk about the people living in the colony, who they are and what they do there.
  4. As the students construct their colonies, allow adequate time for research and discussion. They should know that real involvement during the construction will be the best way for them to truly understand some of the ramifications of living in space.
  5. As the students work, the teacher should also actively engage in the process: ask what is happening, what problems are being solved, what things are and encourage the groups to explore and answer questions they may not think of on their own. Reinforce the science concepts involved throughout the construction phase.

(C.) Presentation.

Ask each group to set up their display in an appropriate part of the room. The displays should be "self-explanatory" to some degree (much like a science fair project) but the groups will also be called on to make a verbal presentation. If possible, ask another class in to share the presentations.


SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
GROUP SIZE: Individual or Small
TIME: Several Weeks
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Student Investigation
TEACHING STRATEGY: Open Discovery Guided Discovery
CONCEPTS: Research Space Shuttle
SKILLS: Experimentation Collecting Data Reporting Data

Objectives: To give students a greater understanding of what happens as people live and work aboard the Shuttle; to provide ideas for possible science fair projects.

space shuttle search assignment worksheet

Materials: “Space Shuttle Search Assignment Sheet," (following activity); Books, pamphlets, online sites about the Space Shuttle; Shuttle models or pictures.

Teacher Background Information:

One of the concerns most science teachers have is getting students to do meaningful science projects either for class or for the annual science fair. One of the reasons for this seems to be that kids tend to do projects “in a vacuum;" they seldom see how what they've been studying relates to them or how it could be extended to an idea for a project. When they do understand how something can be bridged to their own lives, experiments or investigations become a great deal more inviting for most. This activity is an example of how this can work.

Small groups of students research Shuttle topics and have the opportunity to present their information to the class verbally and with visual effects. Following the presentation, the teacher and the class engage in a brainstorming session on each of the eleven topics, looking for related ideas that might lend themselves to a question which could be investigated for a science (fair) project.


(Part I)

  1. Show the students a model or pictures of the Space Shuttle. Ask what they already know about how the Shuttle works, what people do on it, how life is provided for. Because of press coverage, they should have some conceptual knowledge about the Shuttle; however, some of their information is likely to be incomplete and some may be incorrect.
  2. When the discussion is completed, break the class into eleven groups and give each group ONE of the assignments from the sheet. Provide time and resources for the students to search for information on their topic. Explain they will be expected to compile their data and to present it on a specific day.
  3. At the scheduled time, have the students give their presentations to the class. Leave time for questions of the groups and, once finished, display the visual material in a Space Shuttle Centers Invite other classes in to see.

(Part II)

After the presentations, brainstorm each of the eleven topics with your students keeping in mind they are to think about related ideas that might possibly be worked up as a science project. They are to consider anything that relates to the particular Shuttle topic under discussion; they should not try to think of specific project questions yet - just related ideas. No evaluation or qualifying should be done about the ideas at this point, either. Even if an idea doesn't exactly relate to the subject, it could still be an idea that leads to a good investigation question so write everything down. To give some idea of the sort of thing that can come up in sessions like this, here are a few ideas that came up for topics 1 and 10:

1. Sleeping on the Shuttle How much sleep do I really need? Do animals dream? How can the space in my bedroom be made more efficient? How long can people go without sleep? Does exercise help people to sleep? Are there ways to help people fall asleep? Can you sleep upside down? Standing up?

10. Manipulator Arm Devices to pick up stuff in my room. Devices paraplegics use. How does my arm/hand work? Robotics Artificial arms and legs Can you use the manipulator arm on Earth? The ideas that come from the brainstorming are just that - ideas - not project questions. The students and teacher will still have to formulate good research questions that can be turned into hypotheses which can then be investigated.


  1. Find out how the astronauts sleep on the Shuttle. Investigate the difference between some earlier sleeping arrangements (for example what were the sleeping arrangements on Apollo ll) and the Shuttle's facilities. Explain to the class how things have changed. Use illustrations or models to show how the astronauts sleep. Explain what time they go to sleep and what time their work day starts.
  2. Find out about the Shuttle Orbiter's food system. Find out what sort of food is eaten by the astronauts, how much, how it's prepared, stored, etc. Tell the class how the astronaut diet is figured out and where they can get similar food. Bring samples of the sort of food eaten on the Shuttle and share with the class
  3. Find out about the space suits and head gear worn on board the Shuttle. How do they differ from earth models for other missions? What are they made of? Are they made for male and female crew members? (Find out only about the gear worn inside the craft as another group is working on the EVA gear.) After you have your information gathered, make drawings or find pictures to show the class what the gear looks like and how it works.
  4. Find out how the Shuttle is launched. Using an illustration of the Shuttle show the class the basic parts of the craft and explain how it gets off the ground and how it enters orbit. What kind of fuel is used? How many g's are experienced on take off (What is a "g" ?) How is the g force better now with the Shuttle than most other manned flights? How fast does the Shuttle orbit? Describe to the class what can be seen as the Shuttle orbits the Earth. Bring pictures of take off. They're beautiful. Bring pictures of what the astronauts see while in orbit.
  5. Find out about weightlessness on the Shuttle. (Did you know you'd be taller in space than on Earth. Find out why.) Explain to the class what happens in weightless conditions when you eat, go to the bathroom, take a shower or do work on board. How are the problems solved on the Shuttle? Bring pictures or drawings of astronauts in weightless conditions. Tell the class how NASA prepares astronauts to live in weightlessness.
  6. Find out why it's so important for the astronauts to exercise in space. Find out what kind of exercises do the job and what some of the problems are. Show the class a drawing of the treadmill and explain its use. Why is it important that astronauts be in good condition before they come on board? Why do they need to exercise after they get there? Why are the needs greater the longer the flight?
  7. Find out how the air manufacturing and control system inside the Shuttle works and why it's so VITAL up there where the Shuttle orbits. Why would your blood boil in space? Find out and tell the class how the Shuttle engineers keep that from happening to the astronauts. Explain how the air is purified. Bring something that illustrates to the class how the whole process works.
  8. You won't be able to shower on the Shuttle but you will be able to stay clean AND go to the bathroom when necessary. How come showering is such a problem and just how does one go about staying on the toilet seat in a weightless condition? Find out how NASA has provided for the personal hygiene of its astronauts. Find out why the fuel cells on board are so important to this provision. Explain why it is so VITAL that this aspect of space travel be carefully provided for and while you are at it find out why you don't have to trim your fingernails as often in space. Bring pictures or drawings of the personal hygiene facilities to show the class.
  9. Find out how the astronauts, while in orbit leave the Shuttle and why. Find out what kind of gear is used for EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity). Find out and explain to the class the procedure used to leave the vehicle and some of the things the astronauts do outside the craft. Explain how gear protects the astronauts from the hostile environment. What would happen without it? Bring pictures or drawing of EVA to show the class.
  10. Find out about the Manipulator Arm. How does it work? Why is it so helpful to the astronauts? What does it do in space? How is it like a human arm? Make a model for the class of the space crane showing the movable shoulder elbow and wrist on the arm. Explain how it works. Bring pictures of the arm.
  11. Find out how the Space Shuttle comes back to Earth. Find out when the astronauts begin re-entry procedures and explain to the class the steps they go through to bring the craft back to the landing site. Explain how a vehicle that took off as a rocket comes back as an airplane. How fast is it flying as it touches down? What is its angle on re-entry? How does it differ from most other airplanes? What happens to the Shuttle after it returns? How is that different from other spacecraft in the past?

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