iLEAD students’ biology experiments headed to space

Press release

News release 

The study of plants will never be the same for young minds at SCVi, iLEAD Agua Dulce and iLEAD Exploration, all part of the iLEAD Public Charter School Network. Their experiments to determine whether certain plants can grow in space will be included as part of a SpaceX mission bound for the International Space Station, iLEAD announced in a news release. 

“It was a remarkable and memorable experience to support the learner teams, led by their amazing facilitators, as they prepared the experiments that will be launched to the International Space Station,” Kathleen Fredette, director of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) initiatives for iLEAD Schools, said in the release. “This represents learners working together for over a year to accomplish this goal – to actually send something to space.”  

The release provided the following summaries of the schools’ experiments: 

  • A team from SCVi, a TK-12 school in Castaic, and the founding school in the iLEAD Network, is looking to determine whether bok choy, an edible type of Chinese cabbage, will germinate and grow effectively in space. 
  • A team from iLEAD Exploration (an independent study program that also serves students in grades TK-12) seeks to determine the viability of growing creeping Charlie plants (a kind of ground-ivy) in space. 
  • A team from iLEAD Agua Dulce (which currently serves grades TK-11 and will begin serving 12th graders in the fall of 2024) hopes to grow capsicum, a variety of red pepper, in space. 
  • A combined group of students from all three schools is collaborating to determine if they can grow yucca plants in space. 

The student teams gathered in a science lab on Oct. 12 and 13 to load seeds and water for their plants into “Mixstix,” small tubes designed to house and transport experiments to guarantee their safe arrival on the ISS, successful in-space experimentation, and return back to Earth for post-flight analysis.  

“This is such a unique opportunity, as our students are not being asked to simulate or even replicate experiments previously conducted by ‘real scientists.’ Rather, they are the real scientists, designing and conducting these experiments on their own and in direct collaboration with SpaceX and NASA,” SCVi Co-Director Martha Spansel-Pellico said in the release. 

The experiments are being shipped to Florida’s Cape Canaveral, loaded onto an upcoming SpaceX mission, and delivered to the ISS.  

After reaching space, NASA astronauts will carry out the experiment according to the students’ specifications. The return of the experiments is anticipated during the upcoming SpaceX mission, around Dec. 5. Following their return, students will analyze the results. 

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