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Galva-Holstein, Iowa
Students and adults watch a sample being loaded into a Lucite block

Ridge View students and teachers/advisors gather around to watch a sample being loaded into the Lucite block. Image Credit: Ida County Economic Development

Experiment: How Does Microgravity Affect the Maximum Cell Size of Tardigrades?

"What would happen if we tried to grow water bears in space?"

This question started the discussion for an experiment to fly aboard Atlantis on NASA's STS-135 mission as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. A team of high school students from Ridge View High School had come together to brainstorm ideas.

"I wonder if it would be possible to grow giant insects in space?"

"Why would anyone want to?"

"Maybe they could be part of a food supply for long-duration missions."

"Yes, but how would they taste?"

"Probably like chicken, and with more drumsticks."

It was fascinating to observe as this group cataloged and discussed ideas taking obvious joy in the process. They talked with emotion and sometimes laughed as they gained insight from each other. The students debated the ideas in a congenial fashion. Their goal was to select a great idea, not just a popular one.

"I wish we could always teach science in this way," commented Patty Wheeler, one of the science teachers. "Just look at how these kids take responsibility for themselves and their ideas."

"These students are getting a feel for how science really takes place in the world," said Art Witten, another Ridge View teacher.

Isaac, one of the students, summed up the importance of the project, "This whole thing is so unbelievable. We are doing real science research that really matters. What we design will really fly in space aboard the very last space shuttle mission. This could be a life-changer for me. It is something that I will someday tell my grandkids about. How cool!"

Jim Christensen: Galva-Holstein Community School District
Rita Frahm: Ida County Economic Development
Rebecca Dorfmueller: NASA Educational Technology Services