TEXARKANA, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – St. James Day School has won two awards through a NASA competition.
A group of students at the Texarkana school entered NASA’s “Plant the Moon” challenge, a global science experiment to see who can grow the best crops using lunar regolith simulant. Regolith is the layer of unconsolidated rocky material covering bedrock.
“It was just exciting to know, to be able to tell the kids right off the bat your work is authentic,” math and science teacher Nicole Ayers said. “It’s not your teacher grading you, it’s a professor, a researcher in the field with that NASA logo.”
Middle school kids used inorganic material to grow edible food, plants, and create an eco-system on lunar soil, similar to the kind of soil that would be found on the moon.
“I think it feels nice because I get to learn a lot about lunar regolith and growing things in space and all about NASA,” said seventh-grader Katherine Ayers.
In the first year of participating, students brought home awards for evaluation of results and innovation.
“We did really try to think outside of the box with our project. They designed a wicking system to self-water the plants. They made pellets out of the lunar regolith. So we just tried to take non-standardized approaches,” their teacher explained.
The “Plant the Moon” challenge is more than a global science experiment to see who can grow the best crops. It also helps students to gain valuable life skills.
“It’s being a part of a team and working together and learning and enjoying the moment,” sixth-grade student Abigail Thompson.
The students did months of observation and research. The competition required a lot of scientific materials. They even received a donation of aquaponics from AquaSprouts founder and CEO Jack Ikard to use in their project after their teacher reached out in search of some of the materials they needed to complete the project.
“It really upped the level of seriousness for everybody to make sure we were giving our best work,” said Nicole.
The students also created a YouTube video and website to share their experience and research.
“It’s really cool that our school gets to do unique things like “Plant the Moon” and Science Olympiad,” said seventh-grade student Staten Crossland.