8-10 yrs old
11-13 yrs old
Climate & Environment
Students learn about how gravity affects plants on Earth as well as in space. They then participate in a hands-on planting experiment.
June 1, 2020
How Astronauts Grow Plants in Space
International Space Station Minecraft World
Have you ever planted a garden? Which way do the roots grow? Why do they grow in that direction? In this lesson, students will learn about how gravity affects plants on Earth. They will also briefly learn how astronauts grow plants on the ISS in microgravity. The lesson will conclude with designing and building their own space container in Minecraft for astronauts to use.
• How does gravity affect plant growth on Earth? In space?
• Will roots grow in the direction of the seed placement or downward because of gravity? Why?
• How can astronauts mimic plant growth in space when there is less gravity?
• How can I design and build a space container for plants in Minecraft?
Teacher Preparation & Notes
1. Watch How Astronauts Grow Plants in Space for background information.
2. Gather materials for the lesson (materials with an asterisk are PER student or PER group):
a. *3 bean seeds
b. *Resealable sandwich bag
c. *Paper towel
h. Observation journal (paper or in OneNote)
i. Writing utensils
j. Chart paper
3. If students will be working in groups, decide if the groups will be made by the teacher or students.
Estimated time: 60 minutes (plus time for seed to grow roots)
1. The teacher will ask students to describe how plants grow in soil (roots grow downward, and stems grow upward) and ask them if they know why they grow like that. S/he will then ask students how they think plants grow in space. All answers for both questions will be placed on a T-chart.
2. The teacher will explain to students that they are going to experiment with plants and gravity with a hands-on experiment.
3. The students will work individually or in small groups to prepare their seeds:
a. Fold the paper towel and moisten it with water, being sure to get rid of extra moisture before placing it inside the bag.
b. Place the three seeds on the paper towel with space between them
i. The first seed should be oriented with the root growth downward
ii. The second seed should be turned sideways with the root growth to the left or right
iii. The third seed should be placed upside down with the root growth upward
4. Once the seeds are placed in the sandwich bag, tape them in a window (stretch the bag as tightly as you can so the seeds don’t fall- this may require two sets of hands to do initially)
NOTE: The rest of this lesson will take place daily until there is significant root growth for students to see
5. Each day students should record if there is root growth or not; if there is, students should measure it to the best of their ability. If there is root growth, students should draw a sketch of the seed and make a note about in which direction the root is growing.
Estimated time: 60 minutes
1. Once the students have seen that roots will grow downward regardless of the set direction of the seed, they should discuss their experiment as a class or in small groups and infer that the reason for this is gravity. With that knowledge, the teacher can then ask them to compare how plants might grow in space with not a lot of gravity.
2. The teacher should ask students how they think that astronauts grow plants in space. S/he should remind them to think about what plants need to grow and if those things are readily available in space as they are here on Earth. The teacher will take notes during the discussion on chart paper.
3. Students will then get in groups, or work individually, to design a plant container that can effectively grow plants in space- understanding that there is little gravity and water/sunlight are not available as readily as here on Earth.
4. After the teacher approves the students’ designs, they will build it in Minecraft in a flat world. They should use slates, boards, and/or posters to explain the various parts of their design and take pictures with the in-game camera as evidence of learning.
• Informal teacher observation as students make predictions and discuss gravity versus plants on Earth and in space
• Student journals during the seed growth
• Student ability to state, verbally or in writing, that gravity determines the direction of root growth
• Students’ final plant container projects in Minecraft, demonstrated with explanations using slates, boards, and/or posters, as well as images taken with the in-game camera
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