Year plan outline:
- Plants - Growing plants in Martian stimulant soil and learn everything it takes to survive a journey to, and life on Mars.
- Ecosystems- We study Earth's ecosystems and reflect upon what we would need to create an ecosystem from scratch on Mars, while also remembering to take care of our own environment. (See photos below)
- Heat & Temperature and Structures & Forces - Martian Habitat Radiation Challenge
- Earth - Soil sample testing, erosion, properties of rocks and minerals on Earth compared to those on Mars. (See photos below)
The Mars Seven Project 2018/2019
Our Mars theme continues to come to life, but this year thanks to some grants we were able to add Lunar simulant soil, coding sensory-response systems with microbits, magenta grow lights and a big focus on energy efficiency.
See all about it:
- Grants - APEGA and Inside Education
- Mars Seven Project - please see navigation above
Martian Garden 2017/2018
With our Martian theme bringing everything together we braved the unknown and moved forward to begin the project. Julie and I have each planted several tomato seedlings in groups including:
- Earth soil controls
- Mars simulant soil controls
- Mars simulant soil with chemical fertilizers or manure.
Another variable we will be observing is the difference between our respective growing environments. My classroom, which has only one window and a shelf of LED grow-lights compared to Julie’s classroom with a large bay of windows. Our Principal, Mr Kierstead, has even created his own Martian grow house complete with a magenta Mars simulated grow light similar to those used in simulations like Hi-Seas and on the International Space Station.
On a side note my timer was not working and for the first week out poor plants had 24 hours of light and some were damaged. Thankfully we have many plants to observe and hope this will not effect the results. Another observation students made was that the Mars soil tomatoes seem to have purple stems. We are looking forward to their explanations why.
THE PILOT - 2016/2017
The Martian Garden is a company that produces Mars simulant soil from ground up, sterilized lava rock that closely resembles Mars soil based on its texture and chemical composition.
The first year we ran the project we planted 8 different pots:
- 1 Earth control with regular potting soil
- 1 Mars control with only Mars simulant soil
- 6 others with Mars simulant mixed each with a different type of fertilizer (garden soil, vermicompost, manure, or chemical fertilizers).
Students researched the advantages and challenges of each fertilizer as well as what they think it would take to grow plants in a man-made habitat on Mars, much like the movie "The Martian". This fits so incredibly well with both our plants and ecosystems unit and has made the curriculum come to life while weaving in my love for all things space. My students were incredibly excited to watch their tomato plants grow and observe these changes throughout the school year. We observed that the plant in the Mars soil control did not do as well. It was thin, pale, and less lush as the other plants and never survived long enough to produce flowers or fruit.
We graphed our height measurement results to bring in our mathematics component and even shared our gardens with the younger grades who are learning about plants. We had so much fun helping the grade 1 class plant their Tomatosphere seeds like "science buddies".
This project has been a great way to teach students the scientific method and pique their interest and apply it in a meaningful way that is both simple yet incredibly innovative. The next step was making it bigger, viable and sustainable, but we needed some help.