Tomato seeds from the International Space Station now growing in Stittsville

(Astronaut Chris Hadfield with the tomato seeds in space. Photo: NASA)

The ‘Tomatosphere’ is an experiment run by the University of Guelph and the Canadian International Space Agency. Sometimes the tomato seeds have been subject to being in zero gravity conditions, or even different levels atmosphere components, etc. This year the tomato seeds were exposed to zero gravity conditions by being on the International Space Station and are growing successfully at Frederick Banting Alternative School. Thrilled to share this project with us, Janet Perry, science teacher at Banting, took us to see the plants as they now grow in Earth’s environment.

On June 13th, Janet, on behalf of the Frederick Banting school, was awarded the Eco-Schools ‘Platinum Award’. The award is designated to a school depending on how environmentally-friendly the school is and is the highest honour to be received by any educational organization.

   (Janet Perry providing details on the wildflower and herb garden at Frederick Banting Alternate School’s entrance. Lots of bees were present when we visited. Photo: Stittsville Central) 

Janet has introduced many projects to Banting for the full participation of students and outlined each of them enthusiastically to us. She teaches environmental issues, science and brings attention and leadership to other important initiatives and programs — with advocacy and research being performed by the students. Just a few of the initiatives that the students are involved in, thanks to Janet:

  • a reconciliation garden
  • plant reproduction methods
  • gleaning knowledge and saving species at risk
  • reducing pollution through human behaviour
  • carbon tax and sustainability
  • composition of cigarette butts to reduce pollution
  • planting and harvesting from the school’s garden
  • maple syrup production
  • how to line your green bin
  • current Indigenous issues in the media – there is no Planet B
  • the students’ co-op and work with the National Insect Collection
  • planning for the mission to Mars and how Banting was involved in a double blind study with the University of Guelph and the Canadian Space Agency!
(Janet providing information on the types and reason for the plants in the Indigenous Garden. Photo: Stittsville Central)

Janet says “we love to share what the Banting students are doing for the planet” and rightly so. The students have been involved in these projects throughout the year.

       (A student’s recycling poster)                        (The tomato seedlings in the box garden)

One other important project the students are participating in — Alexander Grove Park Tree ID Project. Working with a City of Ottawa Forester who provided the resources for species identification, the school received permission to start the ongoing project. Copper tags were ordered on which the students engraved both the common and scientific names on the tag.  The trees were tagged in a non-invasive manner by marking the trees using copper tags and adhering them to the trees using a staple gun. This is beneficial to anyone walking through the park. Those using the Grove will be able to easily identify the trees and use this as a learning opportunity.

The school plans to create a digital field guide available to anyone so they can find out more about the tree species they observe at Alexander Grove. They are planning to attach QR codes to the tree tags linking the tree species to a website. The students have begun to survey the wildflower species in the area and this will be another ongoing project.

“We (including the students) are all proud and excited to be involved with all these environmental projects to help take care of our Earth,” Janet cheerfully imparted.

It is easy to see how unique science and its teachings can be, when one special teacher brings so much to the world of education.


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