The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) oversees the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). Lenecia McCrary, the SSEP Community Program Director in Broward County, Florida, wanted to share the following at the SSEP National Blog—
Wow!! I can’t believe that it’s been almost a year since I first became aware of this awesome opportunity…students able to propose an experiment to fly in outer space. This was my first year as magnet coordinator at Crystal Lake Middle School and despite putting in the long hours to learn all the new things that come along with the new position, I knew that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I HAD to pursue. Immediately, I looked for resources to make this sci-fi dream a reality. Because of funding from Jaydeep Mukherjee at the Florida Space Grant Consortium my dream of having students from my school send an experiment on a shuttle into space has not only become reality, but documented history as well.
Our students wanted to find what effects micro-gravity would have on the germination of apple seeds. In particular we wanted to see if the growth of apple seeds germinated in micro-gravity would differ from those germinated on Earth in terms of acidic content and secondary growth rates. But they had problems finding apple seeds that would fit into the small wells in the lucite blocks. Agricultural experts from Ohio State University donated the right size seeds for the mission. Wheww…we were grateful.
Our entire school community was involved in this process, from writing proposals to designing emblems for patches and t-shirts to just being supporting cheerleaders.
Our crab apple seeds were returned the day after Endeavour landed. Earl Driscoll, a former NASA engineer and retired employee of our school was in town when the seeds came in. We examined them in my office and yes, germination had occurred! I was thrilled. He told me how he was at KSC for Endeavour’ s landing and how he even spoke to the astronauts as they got off the shuttle. I listened in awe. How exciting to hold this box in my hands and hear this magnificent story first hand.
Our teachers and students were even more excited. As I walked to the boys’ classroom to deliver the special package to their teacher, I told everyone in sight of the good news and they wanted to touch the box that held the space-exposed seeds.
This experience has truly been a blessing. Our students have learned so much and have new found respect for space and its properties. This is real, practical learning at its best and we at Crystal Lake Middle School in South Florida are happy to be apart of it.
Magnet Coordinator, Crystal Lake Middle School
SSEP Community Program Director, Broward County, Florida