Jumping to Conclusions is a game for children ages 10-13 that reinforces what they learned during Space Stations: Living and Working in Space; our bodies change in microgravity. Some of the changes, such as fluid shift and stretched spines, may be unavoidable. However, we can help to slow muscle and bone loss through exercise and diet — in Space and on Earth!
As with Space Stations, the activity can be done in several ways; either as a group with the facilitator calling out the questions and the children completing the sentences, or in small teams or as individuals. The children match the answer cards to the questions. When they are finished, they have a story about staying healthy in space!
For each child or team of children:
If you are working with younger children you may wish to cut the cards out ahead of time.
Astronauts may seem to have a lot of fun in microgravity — doing flips in mid-air, pushing off effortlessly from one part of the spacecraft to sail to another part. However, there are some down sides for astronaut health!
On Earth, our skeleton has to be maintained to support our body and our muscles work when we walk and run and jump. Earth’s gravity pulls against us, making our muscles work hard and maintaining our bones — our work “against” gravity when we exercise and move about keeps our muscles and bones strong!
On the Space Station objects have no weight – and little effort is required of our muscles to lift things or move around. Standing, walking, and even breathing on Earth requires more muscle strength than in space. Because we don’t need as much muscle or bone in space, our body stops maintaining them — our muscles atrophy and our bones begin to deteriorate. Too much bone loss can lead to a disease called osteoporosis – where the bones are at much higher risk for fractures and breaks.
Healthy bones, in addition to good nutrition (like calcium and vitamin D), require lots of exercise — because building bone requires physical stress. Healthy muscles need lots of exercise, too! Astronauts exercise almost 2 hours a day to make their muscles work and build their bones so that they can stay healthy for their return to Earth. Even with the exercise, astronauts still experience some muscle and bone loss. Once back under the influence of Earth’s strong gravitational pull, the muscle loss is reversible with exercise. Scientists are still trying to understand if the human body builds bone back completely after prolonged spaceflight, and if the new bone is as strong as the original bone.
What kind of exercises do astronauts do while in space? They perform “resistive” exercises; they pull against a machine that makes it seem like they are lifting weights with their arms and legs. They also pedal on a stationary bicycle and walk or run on a treadmill. The bicycle and treadmill can be programmed to provide resistance to their pedaling or walking so they get quite a workout even in microgravity. This physical stress helps to reduce bone loss and makes muscles work. Astronauts always have to be attached to the machines — to keep from floating away!
We’ll face the same challenges on the Moon and Mars as we do in space, though not so severely. The Moon’s gravity is about 1/6th that of Earth’s and Mars has about 1/3rd the gravity. So, our muscles and bones will get a bit of a workout on the Moon and Mars, but we will still need to exercise to ensure that we are healthy when we return to Earth.
Even on Earth, we need to exercise to maintain healthy and strong muscles and bones. If you stay in bed for a long time — a month or more — when you finally get out, your muscles are very weak and you will tire quickly. This also happens when you do not exercise very much. So stay active!
Described in the Children’s Guide
The children should understand that microgravity conditions in space affect muscles and bones a lot. To keep their muscles and bones from becoming too weak astronauts must exercise at least two hours every day. And even though Earth’s gravity gives our muscles and bones a workout, one thing we all have in common with the astronauts is that if we don’t exercise regularly, our muscles and bones will begin to get weak.