By Claire Rightley | Social Media Editor
The University of Guelph, NASA, The Canadian Space Agency, Heinz Tomato Ketchup and many public school teachers are collaborating for a nationwide experiment nicknamed “Space Tomatoes” here at Avon.
Around three weeks ago, environmental science teacher Mrs. Lisa Kern had her students plant two different types of tomato seeds. Both sets were the same variety of tomato. Both had been grown by Heinz. Both were being planted in the same type of soil. The difference between the two sets? One of them had spent five weeks at the International Space Station.
Kern said both her environmental science classes and her AP environmental science classes are growing the seeds side by side “to see if there’s a difference in germination rate, growth rate and things like that.”
A NASA presentation at the National Science Teacher Convention from a few years prior was what allowed Kern to become involved with the experiment.
“They talked about some of the citizen science activities that they do and other space agencies do and I was on their email list, so I ended up getting some emails from the Canadian space agency and thought it would be fun,” Kern said.
Kern said she believes her students are enjoying the project.
“I have a lot of kids who want to take theirs home and continue growing them,” Kern said. “[They] seem pretty interested. When it comes to graphing the data and stuff, they’re a little less excited [though].”
Junior and AP environmental science student Haley Hurtman says there is only one downside to the experiment.
“I’m just upset that I don’t get to eat my tomatoes,” Hurtman said.
Kern is allowing her student to take their plants home to grow for themselves since tomatoes will not appear until after school is over. Any plants left at the school will be planted in the garden. The product of tomatoes is not the only positive that comes with this experiment though.
Fellow AP environmental science student and junior Emily Shipman said she thinks the experiment is enjoyable and beneficial to the class.
“I’ve gotten to participate in such a cool project, and it’s taught me lab skills for experiments,” Shipman said.
The goal of the experiment is Kern’s classes was to help students better understand properly controlled experiments.
“One of the big things in AP Environmental science in particular that students need to learn about is how to conduct a controlled experiment and what that means,” Kern said. “This is a controlled experiment. The control is the tomato seeds that did not go to space. The experiment group is the ones that did, so understanding the difference between the two and how to really conduct an experiment with large points of data I think is really helpful.”
As for the results of the experiment, even Kern said she was shocked.
” I was very surprised… There wasn’t a significant difference between the germination rates of the two, and as far as growth rate goes, it seems that the seeds that did go to space are growing faster or taller than the other ones which I did not expect,” Kern said.
Photo by Rachel Moore