Space Life Science
Looking for a new spin on life science lessons? BioEd Online brings the excitement of space life science to your classroom through a series of curricular units focused on engaging topics such as the effects of microgravity on our body systems, maintaining fitness and health during long-duration space missions, the impact of space travel on sleep patterns.
Since 1998, Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) has been sponsored by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) to translate and transfer knowledge gained by NSBRI research teams into materials that are appropriate for middle and high school teachers and students. These efforts resulted in a series of four educational modules that teach space life science concepts and promote STEM careers.
The links below provide access to complete teacher guides or individual activities (PDF), PowerPoint slides, video presentations, and other content to enhance your instruction related to space life sciences, including science articles from the journal, Nature. These resources are available free of charge.
Complete Teacher Guides
Food and Fitness
Students examine their individual energy and nutritional needs, what calories are, true portion sizes, and more. They use what they've learned to plan menus for persons with special dietary needs.
Slide set containing information and images from The Science of Food and Fitness Teacher's Guide, for use in classrooms as needed.
Heart and Circulation
Students learn about the heart's structure and function, how large volumes of blood are moved through the body, the pathways blood follow, and the effects of microgravity on the heart.
Slide set containing information and images from The Science of the Heart and Circulation Teacher's Guide, for use in classrooms as needed.
Muscles and Bones
Students investigate the structure of bones and muscles, good physical stress, nutrition for fitness, the body's center of gravity, and what can be done to prevent muscle and bone loss.
Slide set containing information and images from The Science of Muscles and Bones Teacher's Guide, for use in classrooms as needed.
Sleep and Daily Rhythms
Students explore the day/night cycle and seasonal cycles on Earth, create and use sundials, and investigate circadian rhythms, sleep patterns and factors affecting the quality of sleep.
Slide set containing information and images from The Science of Sleep and Daily Rhythms Teacher's Guide, for use in classrooms as needed.
Individual Lessons: Food and Fitness
Energy for Life
Students observe and quantify the growth of yeast (a single-celled fungus) when it is given table sugar as a food source.View this lesson Download PDF Video Digital Slide Set
Students compare how much energy is released as heat from two different food types.View this lesson Download PDF Video Digital Slide Set
Your Energy Needs
Students estimate average daily baseline energy (Calorie) needs and energy needs for different levels of activity.View this lesson Download PDF Video Digital Slide Set
Students estimate serving sizes of different foods and compare their estimates to serving size information provided on Nutrition Facts food labels.View this lesson Download PDF Video Digital Slide Set
Servings and Choices
Students document their individual eating habits and learn whether their eating patterns meet their needs.View this lesson Download PDF Video Digital Slide Set
Your Nutrition Needs
Students compare their own eating habits to standard recommendations for a healthy diet.View this lesson Download PDF Digital Slide Set
Students learn about healthy eating habits to meet special needs, such as those of athletes, persons with diabetes and vegetarians.View this lesson Download PDF Video Digital Slide Set
Individual Lessons: Heart and Circulation
What Do You Know About the Heart?
To evaluate their understanding of the heart and circulatory system, students take a pre-assessment, which is revisited at the end of the unit as a post-assessment.View this lesson Download PDF
A System of Transport
Students work in teams to simulate the volume of blood moved through the circulatory system by transferring liquid into—and through—a series of containers.View this lesson Download PDF
Students study and draw conclusions about the movement of dissolved substances, and develop explanations about the importance of organisms’ internal transport systems.View this lesson Download PDF
It Begins with the Heart
Students are introduced to the heart, its role in circulation, and its external appearance.View this lesson Download PDF
The Heart is a Pump
Students learn about the internal structures of the heart, and the roles these structures play in circulating blood to the lungs and the rest of the body.View this lesson Download PDF
Examining the Heart
Students examine sheep or chicken hearts to learn about the heart’s structure and the flow of blood through the heart.View this lesson Download PDF Video
Heart Rate and Exercise
Students measure their heart rates after a variety of physical activities and compare the results with their resting heart rates, and with the heart rates of other students in their groups.View this lesson Download PDF
What is Blood Pressure?
Students measure their own blood pressure and learn about the health effects of high blood pressure.View this lesson Download PDF
Students use water balloons to simulate the effects of gravity and microgravity on fluid distribution in the body.View this lesson Download PDF
Individual Lessons: Muscles and Bones
Gravity and Buoyancy
Students compare the behavior of a water-filled plastic bag, both inside and outside of a container of water, to begin to understand environments with gravity and those with reduced gravity.View this lesson Download PDF
Students design and build an exoskeleton or an endoskeleton for an animal of their own invention.View this lesson Download PDF
Students learn about endoskeletons by observing, comparing and contrasting different kinds of chicken bones, and by relating their chicken bone observations to human bones.View this lesson Download PDF
Bone Structure: Hollow vs. Solid
Students investigate and compare the weight-bearing capacity of solid and hollow cylinders, make inferences about bone structure and observe the interior of cleaned chicken bones.View this lesson Download PDF
Students construct a model arm and learn how muscles and bones work together to achieve efficient movement.View this lesson Download PDF
Students learn about the structure of muscles by comparing yarn and cooked meat.View this lesson Download PDF
Center of Gravity
Students learn about center of gravity and how the body adjusts to the force of gravity to remain balanced.View this lesson Download PDF
Good Stress for Your Body
Students learn that muscles and bones need to work to stay strong or increase strength and endurance.View this lesson Download PDF
Muscles and Bones: Nutrition
Students learn about the nutritional needs of healthy bones and muscles, and how to make good food choices, especially in terms of getting enough calcium.View this lesson Download PDF
Muscles and Bones in Space
Students learn how our muscles and bones change during space missions, and then devise preventative solutions to help limit those changes.View this lesson Download PDF
Individual Lessons: Sleep and Circadian Rhythms
Modeling Day and Night
Students make a “mini-globe” to investigate the causes of day and night on our planet.View this lesson Download PDF
Reason for the Seasons
Students plot the path of the sun’s apparent movement across the sky on two days, with the second day occurring two or three months after the first.View this lesson Download PDF
Using a Sundial
Students make a sundial (shadow clock) appropriate for their geographic location in the northern hemisphere, and use it to tell time.View this lesson Download PDF
Students learn that some behaviors and functions of living organisms vary predictably every 24 hours, and that many regular life functions are governed by internal “clocks.”View this lesson Download PDF
Students collect data about their own sleep cycles and use a fraction wheel to examine their data.View this lesson Download PDF
Changes in daily routines and schedules sometimes conflict with our internal clocks. Students investigate how changing the time they go to bed impacts their own sleep patterns.View this lesson Download PDF
Sleeping in Space
Students learn from times they have had difficulty sleeping, read about how astronauts sleep in space, and write about unusual places in which they have slept.View this lesson Download PDF
Summative assessment activity in which students review concepts about sleep and daily cycles, and create their own illustrated poems.View this lesson Download PDF
Related Video and Slide Presentations
Explore BioEd Online’s library of videos and peer-reviewed, annotated slides. All are free for classroom use.
Bone Loss with Space Exploration
Learn about bone structure and different kinds of bone, causes of bone loss during space exploration, and strategies for slowing or counterbalancing the process of bone loss, in space and on Earth.
Eating in Space: Does Nutrition Matter?
Learn how astronauts maintain proper nutrition levels and why nutrition is critical to the success of long duration spaceflight.Video Digital Slide Set
What is microgravity? How is it created? And how does it impact astronauts during spaceflight? This primer provides answers to these and other questions about the near weightless conditions in space.
Learn about the potential dangers and effects of radiation on space travelers, and ways in which the risks can be reduced.Video Digital Slide Set
Maintaining Muscle Mass in Space
How and why do our muscles change during spaceflight, why is this important, and what can we do to limit muscle atrophy in space and on Earth?Video Digital Slide Set
Sleep and Human Performance
When sleep is disturbed, we become less alert and attentive, and generally perform at a lower level. Learn about studies being conducted to understand these problems for astronauts.Video Digital Slide Set
Sleep and Daily Rhythms
The body’s “internal clock” and sleep patterns are strongly impacted by the spaceflight and microgravity. What can be done to counteract these impacts?
What is therapeutic ultrasound, and what are some of its applications? How can it be used to provide healthcare in space? Learn about the potential benefits of therapeutic ultrasound for astronauts and patients.
The Barany Chair
Astronauts on space missions must cope with, and adjust for the impact of microgravity on their senses. Gregory Vogt, EdD, demonstrates how to use the Barany Chair, a tool that illustrates some of these sensory challenges.View this lesson Video Digital Slide Set
Nature News Stories
BioEd Online is pleased to provide current biology and life sciences news stories from Nature News, the science syndication arm of the premier international science publisher, the Nature Publishing Group.
For articles on a variety of topics, visit BioEd Online's Nature News library.Arctic scientists iced out by US–India radar mission China becomes first nation to land on the Moon’s far side 2018 in news: The science events that shaped the year
BioEd Online is pleased to offer this series of podcasts featuring conversations with leading space life sciences researchers about their cutting-edge work. The free podcasts are downloadable, and reinforced with supplementary standards-based educational activities, background information, and links to related content. Topics include experiments on sleep in space, lunar dust, keeping fit during long-duration space flight, and more.
Diagnosing Injuries in Space
Learn about a technique to train space flight crews to conduct medical-quality ultrasound imaging that will allow them to diagnose injuries that occur during space missions.
Health Hazards of Lunar Dust
What is lunar dust, and why is it a concern for lunar explorers? What are the possible health effects of inhaling lunar dust? Hear the answers and learn about current studies to solve the problem.
Improving Sleep Quality During Space Flight
Learn about current research with lighting systems, which may help to improve the quality of astronauts' sleep and improve their daily performance in space.
Monitoring Blood and Tissue Chemistry at a Distance
Learn about a system being developed to enable astronauts to measure metabolic rates and blood/tissue chemistry, in real time.
Staying Fit in Space
Without good stress, muscles atrophy and bones demineralize. How can astronauts maintain fitness during space missions? What are the best exercises?
Testing Astronaut Stress and Fatigue
Scientists are developing a test to help astronauts measure their own fatigue and stress levels, and gauge their fitness to perform critical tasks in space.
Rockets: Educator’s Guide
Lessons and hands-on activities that enable students to examine the history, science, technology, engineering and mathematics of rockets and rocketry.
Rockets: Force and Motion
Basic information about how rockets work, and how astronauts and plant experiments are launched into space.
National Space Biomedical Research Institute
This work was supported by National Space Biomedical Research Institute through NASA cooperative agreement NCC 9-58.