Bone Loss in Space

Bone Loss in Space

8-10 yrs old

Math & Economics

Physical Health & Wellness


Students will complete an experiment to understand the effects of bone loss in space and graph the data in Minecraft.

avatar Submitted By: Phygital Labs

June 1, 2020

Learning Objectives

  • 1. understand what osteoporosis is and how it affects astronauts a. NGSS 3-LS3-2
  • 2. explore what happens to bones with less density a. NGSS 3-LS3-2
  • 3. graph data from their experiment in Minecraft a. CCSS MP.4

Guiding Ideas

Have you ever heard of osteoporosis? How do astronauts get it? Why is it bad for them? In this lesson, students will learn about the effects of microgravity on astronauts’ bones and participate in a group experiment on bone loss. Students will then transfer their data to Minecraft.

Essential Questions

• What is osteoporosis?

• How does microgravity affect the bone density of astronauts?

• What happens to bones when they become less dense due to osteoporosis?

• How can I graph data in Minecraft so it can be easily read by others?

Teacher Preparation & Notes

NOTE: This activity is based on the Bag of Bones lesson from NASA; this plan summarizes what is on the linked PDF.

1. Watch the How Space Exploration Affects Astronauts’ Bones video to get a quick background on how microgravity affects astronauts bones.

2. Make copies of the Bag of Bones article in OneNote or on paper (*optional).

3. Decide if groups will be chosen by the teacher or students.

4. Gather materials for the experiment:

a. Corn puff cereal

b. Snack bags (no larger or it will take too long to prepare…)

c. Heavy books

d. Calculators (if needed, to help with math)

5. Paper journals or OneNote pages

6. Writing utensils (if using paper journals)


Student Activities

NOTE: This activity is based on the Bag of Bones lesson from NASA; this plan summarizes what is on the linked PDF.

1. The teacher will begin the lesson by asking students if they know what osteoporosis is and if they know anyone who may have it. S/he will then define what it is.

2. The teacher will then explain that on Earth older people typically get osteoporosis, but in space astronauts can get it as younger people because of microgravity (less gravity). When this happens, their bones become more fragile due to loss of bone density.

a. NOTE: The teacher can assign the Bag of Bones article the night before, during class, or choose not to use it and just have a class discussion about steps 1 and 2.

3. After students understand what osteoporosis is, s/he will ask students why it’s important to have strong bones and ask what things we can do to keep our bones healthy.

4. Students will then be introduced to the Bag of Bones activity, get in their groups, and make predictions in their journals about what will happen to the corn puffs (bones) in each of the five bags when the book hits them.

5. Once the prediction is made, students will begin the experiment, ensuring that the same student hits the book on all the bags to ensure the same amount of force.

6. Students will record the following data in their journals about each bag:

a. Before hitting the bag:

i. How many total corn puffs were in the bag to begin… (this is where having a calculator will likely come in handy for younger children)

1. At 100% full (this number will depend on how many they can fit in the bag and still be able to close it well)

2. At 90% full (10% bone loss)

3. At 80% full (20% bone loss)

4. At 65% full (35% bone loss)

5. At 50% full (50% bone loss)

b. After hitting the bag:

i. Number of unaffected pieces (pieces that didn’t get crushed)

ii. Percentage of bone unaffected

iii. Percentage of bone affected

7. Once students have all their data recorded in their journals, they will work collaboratively in a flat world in Minecraft to create a graph representing their findings.

a. Alternatively, students can use the Blocks of Grass world template which can be found in the Minecraft Library.

b. Students can build horizontal or vertical bar graphs, modified pie graphs, line graphs, etc.

i. They should label their graph using slates and/or boards.

8. NOTE: If students are having difficulty creating a graph in Minecraft, the teacher could guide a small group through the Javelin Line Plots activity from Minecraft Education to show them an example of a type of graph that can be created.

9. Students should take pictures using their camera in Minecraft and download their portfolio as a PDF to show evidence of learning. They should also complete a journal entry that discusses whether their prediction was correct and explain what happens to bones when they become less dense.


Performance Expectations

Formative Assessment:

• The teacher will informally observe students as they work collaboratively on the experiment (teamwork and working on the math)

Summative Assessment:

• Students will take pictures using the camera in Minecraft and download a PDF of their portfolio to show evidence of learning

• Students will complete a journal entry that discusses whether their prediction was correct and explain what happens to bones when they become less dense