Fairchild is pleased to announce we have been awarded a $1.24 million grant from NASA for its Growing Beyond Earth STEM education program as part of the 2015 Competitive Program for Science Museums, Planetariums and NASA Visitor Centers Plus Other Opportunities. Fairchild’s proposal was one of nine selected from 73 applications.
Fairchild will use the grant over the course of four years, from October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2020, to administer botany experiments within South Florida middle and high school classrooms. With the help of students and teachers, Fairchild and NASA aim to identify edible plants that might be suitable for growth aboard NASA’s International Space Station (ISS), given the physical limitations of growing plants in space. The experiments will include more than 100 different kinds of edible plants from all over the world, grown in conditions similar to those aboard ISS. The long term goal is to provide a more sustainable food supply for future long-duration space missions.
Growing Beyond Earth is part of The Fairchild Challenge, an award-winning environmental science competition based in Miami. The project will help expand ongoing NASA research into a citizen science program for students that includes experimental design, data collection and analysis, and a special emphasis on scientific communication. Through their participation in the project, students will inform future NASA plant research by evaluating edible plants that meet NASA’s criteria for size and edibility.
“With this funding, we will be able to offer our botanical expertise to support NASA’s current research and empower our local network of STEM-minded middle and high school students to contribute to plant science research that has universal implications,” said Amy Padolf, Director of Education at Fairchild.
Fairchild will provide indoor plant growing equipment called “mini botany labs,” including an LED-lit growth chamber and enough pots, soil, and seeds to run experiments throughout the school year. Fairchild and NASA will direct the experiments and analyze the results.
The project will serve groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields, through workshops, career exploration opportunities, and integration into the Miami-Dade County Public Schools curriculum. Fairchild will also offer summer internships for high school students interested in space exploration and botanical research.
“Growing Beyond Earth will introduce thousands of students to an important area of botanical research,” said Dr. Carl Lewis, Director of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. “Our local schoolchildren will become part of the age-old science of growing plants in new environments, now with the goal of producing food wherever humans may find themselves living in the future.”