“At 11 to 13 years of age, my students are young enough to be here when humankind actually succeeds in colonizing other planets,” says David Lauzon. He is committed to teaching them all that he can about plants on earth — and in space. He gently places a seed in one of his student’s hands. “What’s this?” she asks. “Is it going to become a tomato?” When David replies, “No, it is actually going to become 10 or 20 tomatoes and you’re going to watch the whole process,” the look on the young girl’s face is one of absolute wonder…and joy.
David Lauzon is a science teacher at Notre Dame High School in Ottawa, Ontario. His enthusiasm for teaching his students about the world around them is infectious – as is his commitment to social responsibility.
He is excited about earth science, community gardens, the farm-to-plate movement, and about the connection between farmers and agri-business. He is uniting all of these areas of interest in plans for a community garden that will result in providing fresh food for those in need, at a fraction of store prices. David and his students will collaborate together to make it happen.
Kindergarten to Grade 12 teachers across Canada can apply for this free, annual program offered by Let’s Talk Science, in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency, HeinzSeed, Stokes Seeds, and the University of Guelph.
David’s class, along with thousands of other students each year, receive two packages of seeds to plant, care for and observe. The only variable: the seeds in one package have spent between three and five months on the International Space Station (or have been exposed to space-like conditions), while the seeds in the other package have remained earth-bound. The catch: neither teachers nor students know which seeds are which until they germinate the seeds and submit their results to Tomatosphere.org!
While the tomato seeds grow, David and his students monitor them daily for germination, practice their inquiry and data collection skills, and investigate topics like the effects of space environment on the growth of food that will inevitably support long-term human space travel.
“Will these community gardens make you feel more empowered to help the world around you and those living in poverty?” David asks his students. His whole class responds with a resounding chorus: “Yes!” The plan all began, says David, with the tomato seed.
Eight years ago, David’s desire to teach his students about growing their own food and helping their community emerged from Tomatosphere™, one of the free hands-on programs offered by Let’s Talk Science that engages children, youth and educators in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). With the program’s broad curriculum connections, David decided it would be a perfect fit to build on his students’ interests in space and environmental studies as well as foster their practice of science inquiry and data collection.
While the seeds grow, David and his students discuss issues like genetic modification and the ethical concerns about what’s natural and what isn’t. They also talk about the effects of radiation on seeds, given that there are varying amounts of radiation on other planets. The discussions are thought-provoking and engaging.
Through the Tomatosphere™ program, the students at Notre Dame High School have also helped St. Mary’s home for teen moms by donating their tomato plants to them for many years. “Predictions are that food prices will double in a few years. Arable land is diminishing,” David remarks. “With this program, we are demonstrating that you don’t need a front lawn that is only grass. Growing food in our own yards will be the norm again in years to come. I want my students to be ahead of the curve.”
David says that TomatosphereTM and Let’s Talk Science have made it possible for him to bring the real world into the classroom and to view science as a way of thinking that will serve students well in the future. In turn, his students often share how this hands-on learning experience has made a difference in their lives. One of the students remarked, “Mr. Lauzon, my family and I loved the tomatoes,” grown from the plants they took home after the project was complete. “They made the best tomato sandwiches we ever tasted!”
Another student visited David a few years after the out-of-this-world science experiment. The process of discovery had taken root. “Do you know what?” remarked the student, “You gave me ideas I didn’t even know I had.”
Donate now to Let’s Talk Science and give the gifts of critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity and collaboration to children and youth across Canada through free educational programs including TomatosphereTM.