Over the past 13 years, Tomatosphere™ has evolved into a regular component of the science curriculum engaging well over 3 million students across Canada and the United States. In 2014, over 17,800 classes participated in the award-winning program.
The Tomatosphere™ consortium also welcomed two new partners this year who will now be leading the operations of the program: Let's Talk Science (Canada) and First the Seed Foundation (United States).
Tomatosphere™ uses the excitement of space exploration to teach the skills and processes of scientific experimentation and inquiry. Students investigate the effects of the space environment on the growth of food that will inevitably support long-term human space travel.
Pictured above is NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly with 600,000 Tomatosphere™ seeds. These space-faring seeds will be distributed to about 18,000 classes in Canada and the US during the 2015-16 school year. The seeds were launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on board SpaceX’s Dragon on April 14, 2015 and will return to Earth after spending 5 weeks in space.
Each classroom is sent two packages of tomato seeds. One package contains seeds that have been sent into space or treated in space-simulated conditions. The other package will contain "control" seeds, which have not been in space. Through the Tomatosphere™ project, students will learn how to conduct a scientific experiment and compare the germination rates of the two groups of seeds. Tomatosphere™ relies on a "blind test" in which educators and students will not know which of the two packages are the "space" seeds and which are control seeds until the germination process is complete and results have been submitted.
Watching these seeds germinate and grow will encourage classroom dialogue about the elements of life that support the requirements for space missions:- food, water, oxygen and the need to consume carbon dioxide exhaled by astronauts. Traveling to and from Mars could take more than two years, therefore it is vital to know how to grow food while astronauts make the journey to the Red Planet, spend time on Mars and make the return journey back to Earth.
The results from your Tomatosphere™ science experiments will help Canadian scientists understand some of the issues related to long-term space travel. It’s an out-of-this-world opportunity for your students!
Tomatoes are practical and valuable plants for space applications. They provide wholesome nourishment, as well as purified water through evaporation from their leaves.
While you’re implementing Tomatosphere™ in your classroom, numerous support resources are available for you to use while connecting the program to the curriculum. You and your students will not be disappointed in being part of a real world science project that provides assistance that can be used for future space travel. Through Tomatosphere™, you can engage today’s students and tomorrow’s plant specialists, space scientists and Mars explorers! The technical support staff and even the astronauts for future space travel may be in your classroom right now – let’s spark the inspiration together!