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WVU and NASA Help Plant the Seeds for STEM among West Virginia Youth

Students will simulate growing crops on the moon with hands-on experiments

by West Virginia University
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Students across the Mountain State will simulate growing crops on the moon and learn, via hands-on experiments, about NASA’s Artemis mission, thanks to funding secured by the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium housed at West Virginia University.

On Friday (September 9), Vice President Kamala Harris, in her role as chair of the National Space Council, announced new NASA funding for several projects aimed at increasing diversity in science, engineering, technology, and math. One award was $1 million to a six-state consortium, which includes West Virginia, for the NASA Space Grant Plant the Moon Challenge project. 

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Sixty-eight teams from school and organizations serving diverse populations of traditionally underserved and underrepresented middle and high school students in West Virginia will get to participate, said Melanie Page, director of the NASA WV Space Grant Consortium.

“This award means that West Virginia students will have the same hands-on STEM opportunities as students in better-resourced states and it means our teachers will be supported through professional development and additional funds to buy materials so that they can more easily incorporate a challenge like this into their classrooms,” Page said. 

“Our students will not only compete in the challenge statewide but will also compete with others across the nation. For WV, this means that the statewide NASA space grant program that is housed at and supported by WVU continues to honor that support by growing the program to better serve students across the state—serving our land-grant mission.”

The proposal is one of just four awards made nationally through the NASA Space Grant KIDS funding opportunity, which focuses on providing experiences for students to learn about NASA’s Artemis mission to return human explorers to the moon and to Mars. 

Plant the Moon Challenge, developed by the Institute of Competition Sciences, is a teacher-led student global science experiment, learning activity, and inspirational project-based learning challenge to see who can grow the best crops using lunar regolith simulant.

The six-state region also includes partnerships with the Virginia (project lead), North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Puerto Rico space grant programs. 

Consortium partners will work with the ICS to allow more students and educators to participate while adding a materials stipend for participating teachers, expanding professional development for educators, enhancing speakers and activities for participants, and providing experiential prizes in each state and at the regional level. The project will be externally evaluated by the WVU Center for Excellence in STEM Education, under the direction of Gay Stewart.

The project’s Plant the Moon Challenges will be offered in the spring semesters of 2023, 2024 and 2025. 

- This press release was provided by West Virginia University