An Appetizer for Astronauts Kit* or:
• Microgreen seeds
• Planting container (with holes)
• Nesting container(1020 flat, baking sheet or a container without holes)
• An Appetizer for Astronauts worksheet
• Growing Microgreens PowerPoint
• Steps to Growing
Microgreens worksheet (optional)
Garnish your space travel with sweet or spicy microgreens! Students will use the Engineering Design Process to design a growing system and device to secure the growing plants that is able to withstand the lack of gravity while growing a tasty treat for them to enjoy!
Introduction: Meals for Trips
1. Invite students to create a list of foods they would take with them if they were going on vacation.
2. Ask students to share some of the foods that they included on their list.
3. Ask students to consider the following questions:
a. If you were restricted to a small backpack full of food, would all the items on your list fit?
b. If there was no refrigeration, would that change the foods you listed to bring?
4. Explain to students that astronauts travel into space for multi-week trips and have to plan their meals carefully due to limited technology and storage space on the ship. Today, we are going to explore meals and bring new fresh food solutions to space travel.
Part 1: A Day in Space Life
1. Invite students to watch Train Like an Astronaut: You are what you eat…so what do Astronauts eat? and/or How to Prepare (Thanksgiving) Food in Space by NASA Johnson. Instruct students to take notes on how their foods they planned for their “vacation” differed from that of the diet of an astronaut.
2. After watching the video, ask students to share their observations from the video.
3. Explain to students that they’ll be challenged with creating some new fresh food options to add to an astronaut’s diet.
4. Divide students into groups of 3-4 students and distribute a copy of the Appetizer for Astronauts worksheet to each student.
5. As a class review the scenario on the top of the worksheet. Explain to students that they will need to develop a growing system to grow microgreens and develop a device to secure the plants from floating while astronauts are growing them in space.
6. Invite students to complete Step 1 of their assignment based on the scenario provided.
7. Review the Criteria and Constraints of the project with students listed on the worksheet. Make sure to adjust the materials listed under constraints if any additional materials will be
provided to students.
Part 2: Research and Develop Solutions
1. Instruct groups to complete Step 2 of their worksheet. Explain to students that they will be creating a list of questions to research to begin to plan a solution to the scenario. Give students about 10-15 minutes to brainstorm questions.
2. As a class, review the questions students came up with in their groups. Make sure students have the following questions listed:
a. What kinds of meals do astronauts eat?
b. Do astronauts have access to water?
c. How do you keep objects from floating in space? How can we keep the plant from floating?
d. How do you grow microgreens?
e. What materials are needed to grow microgreens?
f. What is the recommended seed density to plant microgreens at?
3. After, provide groups with time to research the list of questions.
4. Review the Growing Microgreens with students to provide some background information to help them plan their solution.
5. Instruct students to pay close attention to the Seed Density calculations as they will need to do this to determine how many seeds to use in their planting containers. There is a Steps to Growing Microgreens worksheet included in this lesson containing planting and seed density calculation information for students to reference, if needed.
6. After students have completed their research, invite students to complete Step 3 and 4 on their Appetizer for Astronaut worksheet. Explain to students that their group will be creating a device that should allow 3-4 planted microgreen containers to grow in space.
7. After students have developed a plan and sketched it, the group should present their plan to the teacher. Upon approval, provide students with the materials allotted to their group. Each group of students should receive 3-4 growing containers, allotted seed amount based on seed density calculations, 3-4 nesting trays and an assortment of craft materials.
8. Students should continue to Step 5 and build a prototype of their growing method for microgreens and the device to secure it from floating as they grow in space. Students should plant their microgreens and use the device to see if the microgreens will grow using their securing device.
9. Students should observe the growth and development of their plants over the next 7-21 days to determine if a plant will be able to grow in the conditions they developed.
10. After about 15 days of growth, have students share their prototype and microgreens growth results with the class.
11. Instruct students to complete Step 7 to evaluate whether they would change anything in their plans based on other groups projects and challenges they encountered. Discuss the answers as a class.
Resources for Student Research
The ABCs of Microgreens, Penn State Extension
Small but Mighty: Microgreens go from trendy vegetables to functional food, Penn State Extension
What do astronauts eat in space?, Royal Museums Greenwich
Best Diet for Astronauts: Here’s How Scientists Build Menu for Space Travelers, The Science Times
How do astronauts eat in space?, Kennedy Space Center
Eating in Space, NASA
Sleep: How can they Seep when they are floating in Space?