Worms in Space for Outreach on Earth: Space Life Science Activities for the Classroom

Christopher James Gaffney, Amelia Pollard, Colleen Deane, Michael Cooke, Michele Balsamo, Jennifer Hewitt, Siva Vanapalli, Nathaniel Szewczyk, Timothy Etheridge, Bethan Phillips

Abstract


Long term spaceflight is associated with the loss of skeletal muscle mass and function. The Molecular Muscle Experiment (MME) seeks to identify the causes of muscle decline in space and test potential therapies to attenuate this in the microscopic worm, C. elegans. This is the first UK-led experiment in the almost two-decade history of the International Space Station. We therefore intend to complete significant and widespread educational outreach activities to promote interest in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and to increase engagement with our space life science experiment. This paper describes three education outreach activities relating to our MME experiment that are suitable for use in the classroom, including: (i) observing normal and mutant worms; (ii) observing the effect of unloading (simulation of microgravity); and (iii) handling spaceflight hardware. Activity packs are provided at a ‘starter’ and ‘advanced’ level to support these activities. This paper also provides three posters that may be used as learning resources for educators that give information on: (i) why worms are used for research; (ii) spaceflight human physiology; and (iii) the specifics of our MME. Details of further planned engagement activities are outlined to increase the awareness of the MME.

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