Tuesday, May 10, 2011


We were planting all of our old seeds, and had a beat up package from an old home school project from my two oldest sons.  The seeds were from nine years ago, when they participated in Tomatosphere, a project linking space and agriculture and kids. The seeds, although old, sprouted and are growing into some strange shapes so I connected with the Tomatosphere folks this morning by email to see if my nine year old Isaac could participate.
Tomatosphere is sponsored by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Space Agency, Heinz Canada Ltd, HeinzSeed, Ontario Centres of Excellence, Stokes Seeds and the University of Guelph.
From their website:

"Over the past nine years, Tomatosphere has evolved into a regular component of the curriculum for more than 12 400 classrooms in Canada and the United States. The Tomatosphere Project Team will continue offering this stellar learning opportunity for at least 2011 through 2014.
Seeds for 2011 have been subjected to a simulated space environment at the University of Guelph. This simulation is outlined in the Teacher's Guide – Seed Treatment for 2011. The "storyline" behind this simulation will provide teachers with an excellent introduction to the program for 2011.
The planet MarsThe basic experiment of Tomatosphere will remain for the next year – a 'blind test' in which you and your students will not know the treatment of the seeds until completion of the germination process and submission of results. Students will learn how to conduct a scientific experiment and compare the germination rates of the seeds. They may also report on the growth and development of their plants... and may be inspired to pursue further education in science and technology.
Watching these seeds grow will encourage classroom dialogue about the elements of life support requirements for space missions - food, water, oxygen and the need to consume carbon dioxide exhaled by crewmembers. Traveling to and from Mars - the closest planet to Earth - could take almost three years. It's imperative to know how to grow food for the journey there, the stay on Mars and the return journey. The results from your science experiments will help Canadian scientists to understand some of the issues related to long-term space travel.
Mariner on the planet MarsOptional units are also available for grade 6 and 9, dealing with weather, nutrition and life on Mars.
Tomatoes are practical and valuable plants for space applications. They provide wholesome nourishment, as well as purified water through evaporation from their leaves. Today's students are the plant specialists, space scientists and Mars explorers of the future! The technical support staff and even the astronauts for future space travel may be in your classroom today! You and your students will not be disappointed in being part of a REAL science project that involves them in providing assistance for future space travel."

The partners in Tomatosphere have developed new optional units for teachers and students - new components that are science-related but also linked to other areas in the curriculum:
  • Grades 3-4: How to Feed a Martian - a unit with a nutrition focus for astronauts' trips to the Red Planet
  • Grade 6: Surviving on the Red Planet - Recycling breathable air
  • Grades 7-8: The Martian environment - a weather station on Mars
  • Grades 9-10: The Energy to Survive - nutritional requirements for long duration missions

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