The New Albany fifth-graders' most recent project was out of this world.

The New Albany fifth-graders' most recent project was out of this world.

For the last month, a group of about 100 science students have been growing cinnamon basil seeds that for 18 months grew in a container attached to the hull of the International Space Station.

With the help of Jim Menz, a New Albany resident and parent who used to work as a contractor with NASA, students in Peter Barnes' science classes have been studying how the "space seeds" grow compared to seeds from the earth.

The fifth-graders were broken into 24 groups and grew the plants in special space-garden kits that were funded through a grant from the school's parent-teacher organization.

The results have been quite interesting, students said.

"When we started growing them, ours grew really well," said Hannah Hess, 11. "The space ones grew a lot faster. The leaves were a lot different."

Ten-year-old Julianne Kalec said her earth seeds produced plants with four leaves and her space seeds produced plants with two leaves.

Menz, who worked with students using a program through NASA's Central Operation of Resources for Educators (CORE) program, said there were some differences between the space and earth seeds.

Some of the seeds from space grew with jagged edges rather than the normal, rounded edge of basil leaves. Some also were different shades of green, he said.

Menz said the project has helped students learn multiple lessons about science and outer space.

"They learned about the scientific process and about controlled experiments," he said.

Each school day, students took the temperature around the plants, measured their growth and weighed them.

Menz also said it got students thinking about the future of space travel.

"It's going to be very important," he said. "If we are going to leave our planet, we are going to have to bring our own food source."

He said the next step is to help students analyze their data and compile it into a report that will be submitted to NASA.

Barnes said he doesn't know what NASA will do with the information but knows scientists have done similar experiments with space seeds.

He said this is the first time he has done a project like this with his students. He said it has been a great way for them to build on lessons they have already learned.

"Space is one of our big units," Barnes said, noting that district fifth-graders learn about planets and space travel. "It also ties in with the scientific method.

"The biggest thing (they have learned) is how to set up a science experiment. How to think like a scientist is what we are working towards."

Fifth-grader Gunnar Wielinski, 10, already has begun thinking like a scientist.

"My hypothesis was the space plants would grow slower," he said. "That proved correct."

gmartineau@

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