Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Space Farming with Tomatosphere Space Seeds

I am so excited to share about this amazing organization and the exciting opportunity they provide for students! First the Seed Foundation's program, Tomatosphere, brings the excitement to your classroom with packets of tomato seeds. The program sends you two packets of seeds. One packet contains space-farming seeds that went to the International Space Station and the other packet was Earth-bound, the "control seeds." Through the Tomatosphere program, students experiment and learn about conducting a scientific experiment by looking at the germination rates of the two groups of seeds. 

After you read all about the Tomatosphere program, sign up! They will send the seeds to you with suggestions about how to plant them. You choose Fall or Spring. Some things I would consider are the holiday breaks, weather in you area and what you will do with them once they germinate. The packets come with approximately 30 seeds in each so I knew how many to plan for. I purchased these Jiffy Tomato Starter Greenhouses from Home Depot. Each kit came with 36 peat pellets so it was perfect. 

I began the lesson with this presentation. It is a huge file because of the video clips! I included clean clips from the movie The Martian so students could get the space farming concept. The discussion centered on how we will get 2 to 3 years' worth of food to Mars and why it is more practical to grow their own there. We wondered how outer space would affect the seeds and plants.

Tomatosphere relies on a "blind test" so I explained that we would not know which of the two packets are "space seeds" and which are the Earth-bound seeds until after we submit our data. Our wondering then continued and we recorded some initial predictions on this data sheet in our interactive notebooks like which packets were the "space seeds." These questions came from the website that had a lot of activities and ideas. I condensed them to work for us. Finally, we talked about what germination is, what it looks like and what qualifies it for the Tomatosphere program. I gave them a call to action to make a contribution to assisting space exploration by taking this investigation of the germination rate and growth of the plant seriously with their data.  

Now the fun part! Follow the directions for the peat pellets to get them soaked in water and ready to plant the seeds. Each student was able to plant 1 seed from each packet. There is a video on the website (included in the presentation) that shows how to plant them. You have to really push the seeds down into the peat pellet to be sure it is covered with dirt. 

Wait! The Tomatosphere Program suggests planting on a Wednesday or Thursday so they have the weekend to hopefully germinate, making the wait less torture for students the teacher! 

Once you have germination, start counting! The Tomatosphere program wants to know how many germinated and how many did not. Their requirement for germination is two leaves. You can find all kinds of resources here that will help you. Some of the things they don't suggest I couldn't help like fluorescent light and growing in the window sill. Ours still grew!

Once the germination is over, you submit your data on a quick form found on the website and through a link they send you. We had this poster up in the classroom to keep up with our numbers. Students checked the seeds daily and entered their data and observations in their notebooks. They were excited to find out which ones were the "space seeds!" We had a lot of students choose "M" because Mars and that wound up being the ones that went! 

I love being a curriculum coach and I especially love how my teachers open their classrooms up to me and are always up for anything crazy I want to try! Thank you to my 7th grade science teacher, Ms. Asbill! Follow her "teachergram" over on Instagram @science_is_my_jam. She has so many great ideas you will want to steal!

Here are all the files linked in the post!


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