Space Stations - Beans in Space!
Type of Program
What's the Point?
- Review the Beans in Space Facilitator Background Information and Explore! Health in Space Discussion Guide.
- Prepare the three containers, each with different amounts of beans to model its weight on Earth, on the Moon, or in space.
- Place three cups of beans into a can and label it "3000 Beans on Earth."
- Place 1/2 cup of beans into a can and label it "3000 Beans on the Moon."
- Label the empty can "3000 Beans in Space."
- Make sure the lids on the containers are on tight or sealed so there can't be any peeking!
- Provide the “Earth,” “Moon,” and “Space” cans in a bag or bin, or place them at a table so that participants can access them.
There are approximately 3,000 beans in 3 cups of navy beans. Placing a specific number on the container label will help the children to realize that even though the weight of an object may change in space, the mass of those objects will remain the same.
The day before the activity
1. Share ideas and knowledge.
- Introduce yourself. Help the children learn each other’s names (if they don’t know each other already).
- Use the Explore! Health in Space Discussion Guide to draw participants into the activity and frame the activity with the main message: Astronauts — and kids! — need to exercise to stay healthy.
2. Exercise like an astronaut! Encourage each participant to lift the can labeled “3000 Beans on the Moon” in one hand and the can labeled “3000 Beans on Earth” up and down 20 times. Invite them to do the same “workout” with the can labeled “3000 Beans in Space” compared with the “Earth” can in the other arm.
3. Compare observations and connect them to the “real world.” Prompt the children to compare their experiences lifting each of the cans with other children and/or family members. Prompt them to connect that experience to what astronauts experience in space.
For older children, emphasize the concept that weight and mass are not the same things. Although mass remains the same in space, weight changes in microgravity. Ask them if they think a can filled with 3000 dried beans — or anything else — has the same mass on Earth as 3000 beans in space or on the Moon.
4. Explain that in space (a microgravity environment), astronauts’ muscles become smaller and weaker (i.e., begin to atrophy). Their muscles don’t have to work hard to lift their bodies or the equipment that the astronauts use — it is like lifting the “Space” can. In space, where there is no gravity for their muscles to pull against, their muscles become weaker. On the Moon, which has about 1/6 the pull of gravity that Earth has, future explorers’ muscles will get a little bit of a workout.