AP Environmental Class Recommends Changes to NASA’s Lab

Magdalena Bolinaga, Writer

The AP Environmental students did an interesting lab that is part of the Growing Beyond Earth Project where they got the chance to grow bok choi plants.

The Growing Beyond Earth Project is a collaboration between NASA, the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, and networks of schools to identify plants for use in the International Space center. 

As part of the project students got the chance to grow bok choi plants for a month under set parameters. A while later they got the chance to suggest their own variation of parameters that mostly benefited the plants.

The ILS group’s variation with the bok choi was to grow them with a companion plant in order to add nutrients to the soil that will eventually increase their growth.

The project teaches the students how to carry out a procedure and also critical thinking skills to solve problems or make situations better.

“Essentially, three of us were put on ‘plant surgery’ duty, which was a fun albeit difficult task to do,” explained senior Victoria Elise Gonzalez. “We had to carefully remove the companion plant (perennial peanut) from its pot and manage to free its roots from the surrounding dirt without causing any damage to the roots themselves. This way, we could separate the different sprouts from the plant as a whole to grow alongside and support the main focus of the experiment, the bok choi.”

The AP Environmental class is taught in the Science department by Mrs. Calleros. This project is part of the school’s successful STEAM program.

“It was a pretty interesting experience, since we had to be precarious in effectively using the tools we had to discard of the soil, which were literal scalpels,” said Gonzalez. “I personally had a great time performing plant surgery, but the aftermath of blackened fingernails weren’t as satisfying. Overall though, I’m excited to see the results of the experiment and to see if plants having a little buddy really does benefit the growth of a plant.”

The three “plant surgeons” were Gonzalez and fellow seniors Gaby Piedra and Alma Pichardo.

“This project has been a great learning experience, as it has taught us not only about the environment but how to develop an experiment,” said Piedra.

The Growing Beyond Earth Project was designed for space flight environments to expand food options and increase the types of plants. The ILS AP Environmental class is a part of that exciting experience, and by doing their bok choi lab they are helping to answer NASA’s questions.