Tomatosphere

Let’s Talk Science volunteer works on the Tomatosphere project with three students.

Tomatosphere™

Investigate the effects of outer space on seed germination with your class. Tomatosphere™ is a hands-on program that builds scientific inquiry and experimentation skills.
Infographic creator icon

Infographic Creator

The Infographic Creator learning strategy introduces students to a method of presenting data, as well as other information, from an inquiry in a visually interesting, graphic format called an infographic.

Planting the seeds of a dream for new NASA Astronaut

Type
News

Photo courtesy of NASA

At an event on June 7, NASA announced 12 new astronaut candidates, its largest astronaut class since 2000. At the announcement, candidate Loral O’Hara spoke of her participation in an early form of what is now the Tomatosphere™ program when she was in Grade 2. Planting tomato seeds from space created a strong connection to space in her at a young age and had a direct impact on where she is today.

“Those early experiences really hooked me and are part of what ignited the dream to be an astronaut”, said O’Hara, when asked what activities helped her become an astronaut. “I think a lot of our [astronaut candidate] class shares that curiosity and excitement for exploring the world and going farther than anyone has gone before.”

Since 2001, over 3 million students in Canada and the United States have participated in the award-winning Tomatosphere™ program. The program helps scientists gather data about growing tomatoes in space, while teaching students the basics of the scientific method. Each year, the research is compiled to help scientists understand some of the issues related to long-term space exploration. Tomatosphere™ is operated in Canada by Let’s Talk Science and First the Seed Foundation in the US.

O’Hara is from Houston, Texas, and grew up near NASA’s Johnson Space Centre. She is currently a Research Engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. O’Hara will report for duty with NASA in August, 2017.

Watch O’Hara speak about her experience:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuXYPj6fIj8&t=2712.

To meet all of the new NASA astronaut candidates including O’Hara, visit

https://www.nasa.gov/astronauts/biographies/astronauts/candidates.

To learn more about Tomatosphere™ and its consortium of partners, visit

tomatosphere.letstalkscience.ca.

Type
News

Photo courtesy of NASA

At an event on June 7, NASA announced 12 new astronaut candidates, its largest astronaut class since 2000. At the announcement, candidate Loral O’Hara spoke of her participation in an early form of what is now the Tomatosphere™ program when she was in Grade 2. Planting tomato seeds from space created a strong connection to space in her at a young age and had a direct impact on where she is today.

“Those early experiences really hooked me and are part of what ignited the dream to be an astronaut”, said O’Hara, when asked what activities helped her become an astronaut. “I think a lot of our [astronaut candidate] class shares that curiosity and excitement for exploring the world and going farther than anyone has gone before.”

Since 2001, over 3 million students in Canada and the United States have participated in the award-winning Tomatosphere™ program. The program helps scientists gather data about growing tomatoes in space, while teaching students the basics of the scientific method. Each year, the research is compiled to help scientists understand some of the issues related to long-term space exploration. Tomatosphere™ is operated in Canada by Let’s Talk Science and First the Seed Foundation in the US.

O’Hara is from Houston, Texas, and grew up near NASA’s Johnson Space Centre. She is currently a Research Engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. O’Hara will report for duty with NASA in August, 2017.

Watch O’Hara speak about her experience:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuXYPj6fIj8&t=2712.

To meet all of the new NASA astronaut candidates including O’Hara, visit

https://www.nasa.gov/astronauts/biographies/astronauts/candidates.

To learn more about Tomatosphere™ and its consortium of partners, visit

tomatosphere.letstalkscience.ca.

Tomatosphere™ launches new website for 2016-2017 school year

Type
News

In September, educators visiting Tomatosphere™ will notice a new look to the program’s website.

The completely redesigned Tomatosphere™ website for Canadian users will launch in September. It features new educator content, a step-by-step guide to implementing Tomatosphere™’s Seed Investigation, and a new registration system.

Both new and past users of the Tomatosphere™ program will be asked to create an account on the new website. To order seeds, the new website requires educators to login each year and submit a seed order.

The website is the newest update to the Tomatosphere™ program, operated in Canada by Let’s Talk Science. Get a sneak peek of the new website:

Questions about the new website? Contact us.

Type
News

In September, educators visiting Tomatosphere™ will notice a new look to the program’s website.

The completely redesigned Tomatosphere™ website for Canadian users will launch in September. It features new educator content, a step-by-step guide to implementing Tomatosphere™’s Seed Investigation, and a new registration system.

Both new and past users of the Tomatosphere™ program will be asked to create an account on the new website. To order seeds, the new website requires educators to login each year and submit a seed order.

The website is the newest update to the Tomatosphere™ program, operated in Canada by Let’s Talk Science. Get a sneak peek of the new website:

Questions about the new website? Contact us.

Tomatosphere™ launches the creativity and dreams of students

Type
News

Maria Nickel with students upon being accepted for SSEP“Best wishes to the student flight experiment team and congratulations to future doctors Ives, Perrie and Stamler, and welcome to the space program.”

When Maria Nickel, a science teacher at École Stonewall Centennial School in Stonewall, Manitoba, read that email from the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) an entire auditorium of students jumped to their feet in excitement.

But nobody was more thrilled than Grade 8 students Graeme Perrie, Adam Stamler and Carter Ives. The boys hugged each other and brushed away tears of joys. “When I announced their names at the assembly it was like watching someone win at the Olympics,” recalls Nickel. “It was the gold medal moment after countless hours of hard work and effort.”

That work began in the fall after students at the school decided to write and submit proposals to the SSEP to take part in Mission 11 to the International Space Station (ISS). The SSEP is an education initiative that gives students the opportunity to design and propose real experiments to fly in orbit, first aboard the Space Shuttle, then on the ISS. “Graeme, Adam and Carter asked if they could do something with the Tomatosphere™ program,” recalls Nickel. “Two of the three boys had worked with the program the year before and were really inspired by it.”

École Stonewall Centennial Students - Graeme, Adam and CarterThe students came up with an experiment to determine if Tomatosphere™ tomato seeds will germinate after a second exposure to microgravity and cosmic radiation. The free, hands-on Tomatosphere™ program, operated in Canada by Let’s Talk Science, provides Kindergarten to Grade 12 classrooms with two sets of tomato seeds – one that has been exposed to space (or space-like conditions) and an untreated set. By planting and examining the two sets of tomato seeds, students investigate the effects of outer space on seed germination.

“Tomatosphere™ is amazing. It teaches us about space exploration and agriculture,” says Stamler, age 13. “It’s more engaging than anything we could read in a book.”

Nickel agrees, which is why she’s been using the program with her students for 16 years – as long as she’s been teaching. “Tomatosphere™ is easy to use and accessible to students of all levels and abilities,” she says. “It allows every child to try something new and be proud. I love to see the excitement on their faces when their plants start to grow. Many students come back to visit me after they move on to high school and they’re still talking about the program.”

In fact, Ives, 13, was so excited by the program last year he planted the seedlings in his own garden at home and recorded their growth over the summer. “I learned so much from the program,” he says. “Once I grew tomatoes in my backyard, it really sparked my imagination and I started thinking about all the opportunities for growing food in space. I definitely want a career in agriculture one day.”

Sparking a child’s interest in science is a big part of what Nickel values about Tomatosphere™. “The program increases learning by making students more curious about space. They want answers to their questions so they’re inspired to do research on their own,” she says.

And learning is exactly what Nickel’s students do – about science, space and agriculture – and so much more. “Putting the proposal together taught us about teamwork and working collaboratively,” says 13-year-old Perrie. “And now, after eight weeks of working together really hard, all of our efforts are going up to the ISS. The whole experience is going to make me work harder in class – especially in science. I want to be a scientist in my career.”

In the meantime, the three students are thrilled to be part of the prestigious SSEP and have an experiment aboard the ISS. Even though they will all be attending high school next year, they’ll return to their old school once the seeds come back down after their second trip to space. “They’ll plant the seeds, do the hard-core research and get strong data to submit to the Canadian Space Agency, Let’s Talk Science and the University of Guelph about what they learned from the re-exposure,” Nickel explains. “They’ll continue to learn and make us proud.”

Type
News

Maria Nickel with students upon being accepted for SSEP“Best wishes to the student flight experiment team and congratulations to future doctors Ives, Perrie and Stamler, and welcome to the space program.”

When Maria Nickel, a science teacher at École Stonewall Centennial School in Stonewall, Manitoba, read that email from the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) an entire auditorium of students jumped to their feet in excitement.

But nobody was more thrilled than Grade 8 students Graeme Perrie, Adam Stamler and Carter Ives. The boys hugged each other and brushed away tears of joys. “When I announced their names at the assembly it was like watching someone win at the Olympics,” recalls Nickel. “It was the gold medal moment after countless hours of hard work and effort.”

That work began in the fall after students at the school decided to write and submit proposals to the SSEP to take part in Mission 11 to the International Space Station (ISS). The SSEP is an education initiative that gives students the opportunity to design and propose real experiments to fly in orbit, first aboard the Space Shuttle, then on the ISS. “Graeme, Adam and Carter asked if they could do something with the Tomatosphere™ program,” recalls Nickel. “Two of the three boys had worked with the program the year before and were really inspired by it.”

École Stonewall Centennial Students - Graeme, Adam and CarterThe students came up with an experiment to determine if Tomatosphere™ tomato seeds will germinate after a second exposure to microgravity and cosmic radiation. The free, hands-on Tomatosphere™ program, operated in Canada by Let’s Talk Science, provides Kindergarten to Grade 12 classrooms with two sets of tomato seeds – one that has been exposed to space (or space-like conditions) and an untreated set. By planting and examining the two sets of tomato seeds, students investigate the effects of outer space on seed germination.

“Tomatosphere™ is amazing. It teaches us about space exploration and agriculture,” says Stamler, age 13. “It’s more engaging than anything we could read in a book.”

Nickel agrees, which is why she’s been using the program with her students for 16 years – as long as she’s been teaching. “Tomatosphere™ is easy to use and accessible to students of all levels and abilities,” she says. “It allows every child to try something new and be proud. I love to see the excitement on their faces when their plants start to grow. Many students come back to visit me after they move on to high school and they’re still talking about the program.”

In fact, Ives, 13, was so excited by the program last year he planted the seedlings in his own garden at home and recorded their growth over the summer. “I learned so much from the program,” he says. “Once I grew tomatoes in my backyard, it really sparked my imagination and I started thinking about all the opportunities for growing food in space. I definitely want a career in agriculture one day.”

Sparking a child’s interest in science is a big part of what Nickel values about Tomatosphere™. “The program increases learning by making students more curious about space. They want answers to their questions so they’re inspired to do research on their own,” she says.

And learning is exactly what Nickel’s students do – about science, space and agriculture – and so much more. “Putting the proposal together taught us about teamwork and working collaboratively,” says 13-year-old Perrie. “And now, after eight weeks of working together really hard, all of our efforts are going up to the ISS. The whole experience is going to make me work harder in class – especially in science. I want to be a scientist in my career.”

In the meantime, the three students are thrilled to be part of the prestigious SSEP and have an experiment aboard the ISS. Even though they will all be attending high school next year, they’ll return to their old school once the seeds come back down after their second trip to space. “They’ll plant the seeds, do the hard-core research and get strong data to submit to the Canadian Space Agency, Let’s Talk Science and the University of Guelph about what they learned from the re-exposure,” Nickel explains. “They’ll continue to learn and make us proud.”

For Over 20 years, Grade 4 Teacher Provides "Out-Of-This-World" Experience for Students

Type
News

One student develops a keen interest in space and decides she wants to be a pilot when she grows up…

Another child discovers a love of gardening by tending the tiny plants…

And a 10-year-old boy finds that working with his classmates helps him relate to them…

Don Flaig holding his TomatosphereTM Certificate“Over the years, several of my students really lit up with the Tomatosphere™ experience,” says Don Flaig, a recently retired teacher at St. Patrick Fine Arts Elementary School in Lethbridge, Alberta. “The whole experience was so real for them, so embedded in the present and the real world. Not everything we do in school is like that. It’s good to have a real problem and do real science.”

Flaig has plenty of experience with Tomatosphere™, a free, hands-on program, which gives students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 the opportunity to investigate the effects of the space environment on the growth of tomato seeds.  He heard about the first iteration of the program in 1996 when it was called Canolab and immediately signed up.  “I was attracted to the idea of participating in a nation-wide experiment involving the Canadian Space Agency.  The students were keen about it and the concept of a fair test, which is so important in science classes for young students.  We compared germination rates of space-flown canola seeds and control seeds.  The plants grew to about 50 cm, and it was all very exciting,” Flaig recalls. 

In 2001, Canolab evolved into TomatosphereTM, which uses tomato seeds to teach students the skills and processes of scientific experimentation and inquiry. The consortium of partners who oversee Tomatosphere™ in Canada include the Canadian Space Agency, HeinzSeeds, Let’s Talk Science, Stokes Seeds, and the University of Guelph. Let’s Talk Science joined the consortium and began handling the day-to-day operations of the program in 2014. This year, TomatosphereTM celebrated its 15th anniversary.

Since 1996, Flaig never missed an opportunity to use the program with Grade 4 and 5 students.  Every spring, up until his retirement in 2016, he and his students eagerly planted two sets of tomato seeds, not knowing which were in space, were treated (exposed to space like conditions), or untreated until the germination process was complete and the results were submitted.

“I introduced the experiment by telling my students about Mars and how long it would take the astronauts to get there.  We talked about how they would have to grow their own food,” says Flaig. “The students got very excited. The first thing they did each morning was to check to see if their seeds had germinated. Sometimes a student would bring Mom or Dad into the classroom to show them the plants. At the end of the experiment, it was a big deal for them to take a plant home and talk about growing ‘tomatoes from space.’”

Kathy Jones-Husch, Flaig’s principal at St. Patrick also sees the many benefits of the Tomatosphere™ program. “The kids love the activities and would rather do this type of [hands-on] learning,” she says. “They can get their hands ‘dirty’ while there is still snow on the ground and it reduces their feelings that growing things is intimidating.”

Tomatosphere™ is, of course, about science. Flaig used the program to introduce his unit on Plant Growth and Change as well as to reinforce the idea of a fair test and the Scientific Method.   It’s also a wonderful way to teach students about space travel and research in space. A personal highlight for Flaig was the virtual visit he and his students had with Canadian Space Agency astronaut, Commander Chris Hadfield.  “We had him to ourselves for half an hour,” he recalls.  “[It was] a special moment.”

But Flaig also enjoyed the way he could weave Tomatosphere™ into many other subjects such as math, health and even art.  “Tomatosphere™ was the tree trunk and branches on which I hung so many concepts from several curricula,” he says.  “The fact that Tomatosphere™ continued for so many years helped me develop my approach and deepen the learning of the students. It is by far the most successful and enduring activity I undertook in my classrooms in my career.”

Tomatosphere registration opens September 2016 at tomatosphere.letstalkscience.ca.

Type
News

One student develops a keen interest in space and decides she wants to be a pilot when she grows up…

Another child discovers a love of gardening by tending the tiny plants…

And a 10-year-old boy finds that working with his classmates helps him relate to them…

Don Flaig holding his TomatosphereTM Certificate“Over the years, several of my students really lit up with the Tomatosphere™ experience,” says Don Flaig, a recently retired teacher at St. Patrick Fine Arts Elementary School in Lethbridge, Alberta. “The whole experience was so real for them, so embedded in the present and the real world. Not everything we do in school is like that. It’s good to have a real problem and do real science.”

Flaig has plenty of experience with Tomatosphere™, a free, hands-on program, which gives students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 the opportunity to investigate the effects of the space environment on the growth of tomato seeds.  He heard about the first iteration of the program in 1996 when it was called Canolab and immediately signed up.  “I was attracted to the idea of participating in a nation-wide experiment involving the Canadian Space Agency.  The students were keen about it and the concept of a fair test, which is so important in science classes for young students.  We compared germination rates of space-flown canola seeds and control seeds.  The plants grew to about 50 cm, and it was all very exciting,” Flaig recalls. 

In 2001, Canolab evolved into TomatosphereTM, which uses tomato seeds to teach students the skills and processes of scientific experimentation and inquiry. The consortium of partners who oversee Tomatosphere™ in Canada include the Canadian Space Agency, HeinzSeeds, Let’s Talk Science, Stokes Seeds, and the University of Guelph. Let’s Talk Science joined the consortium and began handling the day-to-day operations of the program in 2014. This year, TomatosphereTM celebrated its 15th anniversary.

Since 1996, Flaig never missed an opportunity to use the program with Grade 4 and 5 students.  Every spring, up until his retirement in 2016, he and his students eagerly planted two sets of tomato seeds, not knowing which were in space, were treated (exposed to space like conditions), or untreated until the germination process was complete and the results were submitted.

“I introduced the experiment by telling my students about Mars and how long it would take the astronauts to get there.  We talked about how they would have to grow their own food,” says Flaig. “The students got very excited. The first thing they did each morning was to check to see if their seeds had germinated. Sometimes a student would bring Mom or Dad into the classroom to show them the plants. At the end of the experiment, it was a big deal for them to take a plant home and talk about growing ‘tomatoes from space.’”

Kathy Jones-Husch, Flaig’s principal at St. Patrick also sees the many benefits of the Tomatosphere™ program. “The kids love the activities and would rather do this type of [hands-on] learning,” she says. “They can get their hands ‘dirty’ while there is still snow on the ground and it reduces their feelings that growing things is intimidating.”

Tomatosphere™ is, of course, about science. Flaig used the program to introduce his unit on Plant Growth and Change as well as to reinforce the idea of a fair test and the Scientific Method.   It’s also a wonderful way to teach students about space travel and research in space. A personal highlight for Flaig was the virtual visit he and his students had with Canadian Space Agency astronaut, Commander Chris Hadfield.  “We had him to ourselves for half an hour,” he recalls.  “[It was] a special moment.”

But Flaig also enjoyed the way he could weave Tomatosphere™ into many other subjects such as math, health and even art.  “Tomatosphere™ was the tree trunk and branches on which I hung so many concepts from several curricula,” he says.  “The fact that Tomatosphere™ continued for so many years helped me develop my approach and deepen the learning of the students. It is by far the most successful and enduring activity I undertook in my classrooms in my career.”

Tomatosphere registration opens September 2016 at tomatosphere.letstalkscience.ca.

Our Stories: Growing Generosity from Classrooms to Communities

Type
News

“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.

The Power of Problem Solving and Hands-on Learning

How Tomatosphere™ Works

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.

Participate in Tomatosphere™

“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.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

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.

Type
News

“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.

The Power of Problem Solving and Hands-on Learning

How Tomatosphere™ Works

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.

Participate in Tomatosphere™

“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.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

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.

Canadian Light Source Synchrotron takes Tomatosphere™ to the Next Level

Type
News

Throughout the spring, thousands of classrooms across Canada participating in the TomatosphereTM program were planting and growing two sets of tomato seeds. One set was exposed to space-like conditions while the other was a control set. Close examination of the germination rate of these two types of seeds gave students a chance to determine if space conditions such as extreme temperatures or being placed in a vacuum has any affect on tomato seeds and ultimately, tomatoes grown in space.

Now imagine examining the tomato plants grown from space seeds at a molecular level with a team of real-life scientists. That was the experience of five students from Lloydminster Comprehensive High School in Lloydminster Alberta in June.

The students were part of the Canadian Light Source’s Students on the Beamlines (SotB) program for high school students. Through the program, students had the unique opportunity to use Canada’s only synchrotron. The synchrotron, stationed at the University of Saskatchewan, is a source of brilliant light used to gather information about the structural and chemical properties of materials at the molecular level.

The SotB program gives students a chance to design and develop their own scientific experiment that involves real-life science. The team of students from Lloydminster Comprehensive High School used the TomatosphereTM program to examine the affects of seeds exposed to cosmic radiation. This June marked the second generation of tomato plants examined by Lloydminster students at the synchrotron.

Rylee Prescesky, a Grade 12 student at Lloydminster, examined the plants at the synchrotron in 2014 and returned this year to review the second generation of TomatosphereTM plants.

“I’ve known about the TomatosphereTM program since I was in Grade 6, so I knew you could grow space tomatoes and analyze results,” said Prescesky. “When I heard about the opportunity to go to the synchrotron last year [to examine the space plants], I jumped on board.”

In 2014, experiments were done to determine the elemental composition and speciation of iron in plant parts from both the control and space plants.

“We ended up finding that there were two different speciations of iron within the [space] plants,” said Prescesky.

The students also found that tomato plants grown from irradiated seeds showed differences in height, number of leaves and number of stomata.

“We wanted to see if those differences carried on into the second generation of the controlled and space plants,” said Prescesky. “We read research that said there are mutations that can occur when the plants are exposed to cosmic radiation and I wanted to see if our plants would permanently mutate and transfer on.”

This year, the team had a chance to find out if the second generation of space tomato plants included the mutated hereditary traits.

“We found there are hereditary traits that have transferred over. When looking at the iron concentration in the plants and the different proteins, [we found] they were higher in most parts of the plants as well as polysaccharides and sugars,” said Prescesky. “There were far more differences than we expected throughout the plant.”

As for their practical learning experience, the students discovered what it’s like to study science in the real world.

“[The project] was a reality check as to what real science actually is. It doesn’t involve people standing around in lab coats making beakers fizzle,” said Wajeeha Hassan, another Lloydminster student involved in the program.

“A project like this is cross-curricular,” said Blair Proctor, a senior physics teacher at Lloydminster and supervisor for the students. “Science in general is not categorized into three general categories. [With this project], students had the ability to study biology, to use equipment based in physics and also study chemistry.”

“They learned what science is like in real life,” said Proctor.

To learn more about the TomatosphereTM program, visit tomatosphere.letstalkscience.ca. For additional information about the Canadian Light Source’s Students on the Beamlines (SotB) program, visit http://www.lightsource.ca/for_students2.html.

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Throughout the spring, thousands of classrooms across Canada participating in the TomatosphereTM program were planting and growing two sets of tomato seeds. One set was exposed to space-like conditions while the other was a control set. Close examination of the germination rate of these two types of seeds gave students a chance to determine if space conditions such as extreme temperatures or being placed in a vacuum has any affect on tomato seeds and ultimately, tomatoes grown in space.

Now imagine examining the tomato plants grown from space seeds at a molecular level with a team of real-life scientists. That was the experience of five students from Lloydminster Comprehensive High School in Lloydminster Alberta in June.

The students were part of the Canadian Light Source’s Students on the Beamlines (SotB) program for high school students. Through the program, students had the unique opportunity to use Canada’s only synchrotron. The synchrotron, stationed at the University of Saskatchewan, is a source of brilliant light used to gather information about the structural and chemical properties of materials at the molecular level.

The SotB program gives students a chance to design and develop their own scientific experiment that involves real-life science. The team of students from Lloydminster Comprehensive High School used the TomatosphereTM program to examine the affects of seeds exposed to cosmic radiation. This June marked the second generation of tomato plants examined by Lloydminster students at the synchrotron.

Rylee Prescesky, a Grade 12 student at Lloydminster, examined the plants at the synchrotron in 2014 and returned this year to review the second generation of TomatosphereTM plants.

“I’ve known about the TomatosphereTM program since I was in Grade 6, so I knew you could grow space tomatoes and analyze results,” said Prescesky. “When I heard about the opportunity to go to the synchrotron last year [to examine the space plants], I jumped on board.”

In 2014, experiments were done to determine the elemental composition and speciation of iron in plant parts from both the control and space plants.

“We ended up finding that there were two different speciations of iron within the [space] plants,” said Prescesky.

The students also found that tomato plants grown from irradiated seeds showed differences in height, number of leaves and number of stomata.

“We wanted to see if those differences carried on into the second generation of the controlled and space plants,” said Prescesky. “We read research that said there are mutations that can occur when the plants are exposed to cosmic radiation and I wanted to see if our plants would permanently mutate and transfer on.”

This year, the team had a chance to find out if the second generation of space tomato plants included the mutated hereditary traits.

“We found there are hereditary traits that have transferred over. When looking at the iron concentration in the plants and the different proteins, [we found] they were higher in most parts of the plants as well as polysaccharides and sugars,” said Prescesky. “There were far more differences than we expected throughout the plant.”

As for their practical learning experience, the students discovered what it’s like to study science in the real world.

“[The project] was a reality check as to what real science actually is. It doesn’t involve people standing around in lab coats making beakers fizzle,” said Wajeeha Hassan, another Lloydminster student involved in the program.

“A project like this is cross-curricular,” said Blair Proctor, a senior physics teacher at Lloydminster and supervisor for the students. “Science in general is not categorized into three general categories. [With this project], students had the ability to study biology, to use equipment based in physics and also study chemistry.”

“They learned what science is like in real life,” said Proctor.

To learn more about the TomatosphereTM program, visit tomatosphere.letstalkscience.ca. For additional information about the Canadian Light Source’s Students on the Beamlines (SotB) program, visit http://www.lightsource.ca/for_students2.html.