June 14, 2014 in Washington Voices

Pasadena Elementary students study seeds from space station

By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photoBuy this photo

Pasadena Park Elementary school second-grader Haley Petrlich, 7, points to her germinating “Earth” seeds that are part of a class experiment with seeds that spent a year outside the International Space Station.
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In Melissa Fennen’s second- and third-grade classroom at Pasadena Park Elementary School, students learned about the life cycles of plants, how they go from seed to plant and back to seeds.

This year, their lessons had an out-of-this-world component: Students planted seeds that had spent a year outside the International Space Station.

“They came in Mrs. Fennen’s mail,” said second-grader Mia Edleman.

NASA sent Fennen cinnamon basil seeds – some that had made the journey to the space station, some that had stayed on Earth.

Students, with help from a parent, made growth chambers from 2-liter soda bottles. And each container was divided with a seed from space planted in one half and a standard seed planted in the other.

None of the seeds exposed to space germinated – and the students had a lot to say about that.

“I think that it’s that they might not be used to the Earth,” said Blake Ashe, a second-grader.

“Because they are old,” said Henry Lohstroh, a second-grader. The seeds were dated 2007.

“Some think they froze,” said Keason Silva, a second-grader. He explained the plants need to be kept in an environment of 65 degrees to 85 degrees, but, “space is way colder.”

Fennen said the students investigated when they ran into challenges along the way. Students expected the plants to germinate in five to 15 days. When they didn’t, they looked into causes for that and found the seeds had come back to Earth in 2007.

“We didn’t even realize how old they were,” Fennen said.

Fennen said the point of the project was to see what kids can learn about plant growth in space.

The first plant sprouted at 14 days. Third-grader Shirley Lin said it took 16 days for one plant to germinate and 18 days for another one. Fennen said students could still be surprised with the plants at 28 days.

Friday was the last day of school for students in the West Valley School District, but the plants will live on.

“We’re going to take them home and take care of them,” said second-grader Neena McManigal.

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