Holt school project proves out of this world

Holt Primary teaching assistant Caroline Riseborough and pupils with compost and seed trays they wil

Holt Primary teaching assistant Caroline Riseborough and pupils with compost and seed trays they will be using to grow salad seeds that have spent time on the International Space Station. Picture: KAREN BETHELL - Credit: Archant

A team of budding young astrobiologists at Holt Primary School are breaking new scientific ground, by growing seeds that have been kept in microgravity on the International Space Station.

The ten-strong group of eight-11-year-olds volunteered to take part in Rocket Science, an educational project being run by the Royal Horticultural Society Campaign for School Gardening in partnership with the UK Space Agency (ISS).

The scheme will see around half a million UK children grow seeds flown to the ISS as part of British astronaut Tim Peake's six-month Principia mission.

After returning to the UK, the rocket salad seeds were packaged up in batches of 100 with identical seeds that have stayed on earth, ready to be sent out to participating schools after the Easter holidays.

The experiment, which aims to encourage youngsters to think about how human life could be sustained on another planet, look at what astronauts need to survive in challenging climates, and see the potential of future careers in science, technology, engineering and maths, will see youngsters record the growth of the seeds over a seven-week period.

All schools will follow strict growing guidelines, keeping their seeds in identical conditions and measuring the plants' height and number of leaves on set dates.

At the end of the project, schools will be asked to input their findings into a national online database so that results can be compared.

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Teaching assistant Caroline Riseborough, who is co-ordinating the experiment at Holt Primary School, hoped that taking part would 'bring space to life' for pupils.

She said: 'Science is often considered to be a geeky, boring subject, but this has really inspired the children and having a British astronaut involved has made them realise just how exciting it is.'

Pupils were eagerly anticipating the arrival of the seeds, Mrs Riseborough added, and had made 'Rocket Science' posters and watched a video of Tim Peake explaining the project's aims.

'Space is so out of reach for most of us, so it is wonderful that they will actually get their hands on something that has actually been there,' she said.