The Allen Park Elementary students that will speak to an astronaut on board the International Space Station in the fall are anxiously awaiting the results of their latest lesson.

Thursday, April 5th, students harvested tomatoes that have been growing in their campus garden for months. Half of the seeds they planted were flown on board the International Space Station. The other half were the “control” seeds that stayed on earth.

The students planned and performed an experiment to compare the germination rates of the two groups of seeds. They’ve also used the space tomatoes to generate classroom discussions about meeting an astronaut’s needs on long duration missions and how missions to Mars might need to rely on growing plants for food.

Their data will now be analyzed by Tomatosphere, an award-winning, curriculum-driven free program that uses the excitement of space exploration to teach the skills and processes of scientific experimentation and inquiry.

Sometime in the fall, a select group of students will use a Ham Radio provided by CenturyLink to speak with an astronaut on board the International Space Station. Allen Park is the first Lee County school to participate in Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS).

Only 14 schools are participating in this round of ARISS. A preliminary time frame for the available windows of opportunity could be announced soon. FGCU will provide telescopes to the school so students can observe the Space Station flying overhead while their classmates speak to the astronaut.