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The Great Habitat Debate

Designs are in!

photo of duncan atchison demonstrating a habitat

photo of duncan atchison demonstrating a habitat

photo of scientist showing animal habitat

photo of laura lewis in animal lab

Teachers and Students,
Have you ever kept mice, rats, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters or rabbits? Could you care for them in space?
Any student who has kept and cared for an animal of any kind can relate to this project. Those who have not, can learn a great deal! We hope the Great Habitat Debate will be a fun way to talk about animal care while learning about the special environment of space flight.

As students brainstorm the needs and requirements for caring for animals in space, they will begin to understand microgravity and its effects on animals and humans. Additionally, students will collaborate with classrooms around the world as they become life scientists and engineers designing a space-worthy animal habitat for our furry friends.

This project can be as easy or complex as your grade level dictates. Lower grades may choose to submit a simple drawing while upper grades may prepare detailed designs with justification for each element in design. Please use as much, or as little of the guidace from our "Considerations" section as you think will be appropriate to your grade level. Roughly sketched out, this is the plan:

December 12: Announcement
Activity details announced in one of our updates. Educators register their interest by joining the debate-nrn list online or by emailing Linda Conrad
Educators prepare classes by sharing the Great Animal Habitat Debate overview with students.

January 5 - 30: Part 1
Design activities begin. Students brainstorm in their classrooms, discuss ideas online with other classes, and decide how they would best solve any problems. Submissions can be made anytime during January. They may be viewed online.

February 2: Expert Feedback
All designs due (with text explanations of all features if appropriate). Designs will be posted, and top designs will receive expert feedback from NASA.

Some considerations to begin with: The animal habitats pictured at left were designed for housing animals on Earth. The challenge to your classroom is to design a habitat that will allow for the care and safety of animals for a 16-day trip in space. There are many things to take into account, here are just a few: Many animals like to clump together when they sleep - how will they do that if they are floating all over?

How can we give the animals fresh food and water?

How will the animals go to the bathroom in space, without making a big mess?

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