At the end of 2015 Horticulture students at Kingston Maurward College embarked on a six month national Rocket Science experiment where ordinary plant seeds were taken into space on the Soyuz 44S with Astronaut Scott Kelly and upon their return the seeds were planted to see if anything changed from being ‘normal’ seeds to ‘modified’ seeds.
The exciting experiment is a partnership between the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Campaign for School Gardening and the European Space Agency’s ‘Out Of This World’ educational project.
This research will help students understand if sending seeds into space really does help growth of plants or if it gives them some other ability that may prove useful in the growing process in the future.
The participating students across the country were given two seed trays – one with seeds taken to space, the other regular earth based seeds. Students were then tasked to try to find out which were which, understand good plant growth such as soil, water and light, and be introduced to new things in plant growth such as process of gravity.
Two kilograms of seeds were taken in to space with a hundred seeds going back to each of 10,000 UK schools taking part in the project, plus a hundred seeds that have remained on Earth. Seed packets were colour-coded but schools were not told which is which until the national results were published.
Students planted a hundred seeds each of red and blue packet of seeds, individually into numbered cell trays. The trays of seeds were set out in the greenhouse to germinate and the observations where made over the following week including days to first germinating seed; days to full germination; percentage germination per tray; days to first true leaf; number of leaves after so many days; average height of leaves after so many days; and final percentage of live seedlings at the end of the experiment. Kingston Maurward’s results were sent off to be merged with over 1200 across the country for analysis.
Horticulture tutor, Chris Hunter, said: “Our observations showed no clear difference between the two batches, though when combined with all the other results a pattern may become visible. We were asked to guess which had been into space – our guess was blue but interestingly it was red. Final results are eagerly awaited in the autumn.”
The Rocket Science project aims to inspire pupils to think scientifically and helping them to see the potential of future careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) and Horticulture, will give around half a million UK students the chance to learn how science in space contributes to our knowledge of life on earth, using the invaluable expertise of the European Space Agency (ESA) and RHS Science team.
Kingston Maurward College Head of Horticulture, Joanna Jeffery, said: “We work closely with the RHS to deliver a range of courses to mainly adult learners so it was great to get involved in this exciting project under the Campaign for School Gardening scheme and get some younger students involved. This project exemplified how vitally exciting horticulture is; growing food and space exploration- what could be better?!
“We are looking forward to seeing the national results and what they might mean for the future of plant production for astronauts and earthlings!”
For more information about the RHS/ ESA Rocket Science project go to: https://schoolgardening.rhs.org.uk/News/News-results/National/2016/June/Tim-Peake-Space-Seed-Reveal and https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/whats-on-at-rhs-gardens/rocket-science-summer-holiday-fun
For more information about horticulture courses starting with us this September at Kingston Maurward College go to http://www.kmc.ac.uk/study-with-us/course-search/ or call 01305 215215.