Launching STEM with Cubes in Space

Last week 7th grade science finalized earnest requests to launch their experimental ideas into space.  They finished their NASA Cubes in Space proposals, attempting to address all the required components of payload, experimental design, data collection and communication of results. We had a range of ideas from how microgravity would stress chicken bones, if popcorn would pop in reduced altitude pressure to wonderings of what would happen to the cell structure in a blade of grass in space. Their research, questioning and proposals were of their own design, receiving peer review and critique. We even had a few AP Physics students willing to lend their critical eye on the questions they asked, if indeed they were true scientific questions.  The proposals have all been officially submitted to NASA for review for flight consideration. We are hopeful to be asked clarifying questions which will mean their proposals are in the process of being considered for future flight.  If we’re lucky we will hear positive news that we will receive a cube to test our experiments in flight.  If not, we’ll will review what we learned, which is a great deal about how science works in the “real world”.  In either case, we will have learned what rocket scientists already know, that science and experimental design is a process, a protocol and a format.  How one explains what they want to know, why they want to know it and how it relates to the real world is what science is all about.  My 7th graders stepped outside of “what do I need to do to get a grade?” to “how to explain this so NASA will grant me a cube?”   I know my students, with their CiS proposals, worked through authentic scientific processing, more so than they could have gained from a “NASA” unit in a textbook.  Now, here’s hoping we’re granted a cube…or two.

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