There’s an intriguing experiment being conducted at the moment by the Royal Horticultural Society and the UK Space Agency and they hoping children will be able to help them.
Research is being conducted into growing plants in space and British astronaut Tim Peake has asked children to help him. He’s asking for help with the experiment to grow seeds which have been with him in orbit to see how they differ from the growth of seeds which have not left the earth.
Although this is aimed at schools, for your home educated child the experiment raises many fascinating questions for consideration and discussion. The complicated question; ‘which way is up?’ among them. And also raises important issues which surround the growth of our food and its connection to environment and planet.
The experiment is part of a study to see how we might be able to grow plants without the conditions the earth provides that we know plants need; not only conditions like soil, light and air, but also gravity. Will plants thrive if there is no gravitational pull to determine which way the roots should grow and which way the stem? In other words, which way is up?
It is still not understood how plants figure this out even though they have managed to grow plants in space. But one day we might depend upon being able to grow food in other climates as well as our own and astronauts are helping to conduct the research by gardening in space.
You might feel that ‘gardening’ is not an important area of study or a skill that children need as part of their education. However, education itself is about understanding the world, and part of that means knowing that plant life is essential to life itself, as are other issues that affect our existence. For no plants means no food. No plants or trees means no clean air for us to breathe. And the soil in which plants grow is made up in part of decaying plant material and dependent on insects and invertebrates which contribute to the cycle and the ecosystem on which we all depend to maintain life. It’s all connected. Plenty of areas for study.
Whether you’re growing cress on the window sill, gardening outdoors, or planting seeds which have been in space, growing things provides an experience of plants and their biology and an awareness of ecology in general, and is an important element of education. And experiments like these provide an exciting starting point to arouse the children’s curiosity.