from Come Fly With Me! – Exploring science through aviation and aerospace concepts

SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
TIME: 60 minutes
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Discussion and Student Activity
TEACHING STRATEGY: Guided Discovery Expository
CONCEPTS: weightless Atrophy Conditioning
SKILLS: Reading for Information Measuring

Objectives: To understand some of the problems the body faces while living in a weightless atmosphere; to apply the information in devising exercise equipment to offset the problems.

Physical activity in space illustration

Materials: Ramificatons of living in space. Books and pamphlets on the physical

1. Talk with the students about what some of the problems of living in a weightless condition might be. Ask them to think about how their body functions in an atmosphere of 1 g.

  • a. How hard is it to walk up hill?
  • b. How much effort does it take to ride a bike?
  • c. How are their muscles used to lift things?
  • d. What sort of exercise do they get when they run?
  • e. Are their legs, arms, lungs and heart all affected by exercise?
  • f. How does gravity enter the picture here?
  • g. What might happen to people who are unable to use their arms or legs for long periods of time, for example, when people have to stay in bed for several weeks?

How vital is exercise to a well conditioned body? How important is gravity and the resistance it provides to a well-conditioned body?

2. Discuss what might happen, then, if people were to try to live for long periods without gravity. Have the students make some predictions based on the earlier discussion.

3. Have the students do some research on what space scientists have found out about the body’s response to weightlessness. Spend some time gathering information and sharing it in class.

4. Finally, have the students devise, either on paper or with a model, a compact, useful piece of exercise equipment that will help solve at least one of the physiological problems caused by weightlessness.

Remind them to think about such things as:

  • Atrophy of the muscles – loss of muscle mass, especially in the legs – loss of calcium and bone strength – how to keep the person attached to the equipment – how to provide resistance in micro-gravity conditions – how to provide aerobic conditioning WHILE THEY ARE AT IT…ask your students to keep a look out for answers to such questions as:
  • Why are people taller in space?
  • Why is the heart rate lower in space?
  • Why does a person’s face swell in space?

When the students are ready to share their exercise equipment models or drawings, see if anyone has also run across some answers to the “extra questions” and can share them with the class.

Also, if anyone has thought of a question he or she would like answered, see if the class can think of ways to possibly find the necessary information.
Extension: Check the K – 6 COME FLY WITH ME materials for the following activities which relate to the body in space: #62-Pilot Test, #63-Human Reaction Time, #64-Lung Capacity, #90-Recording Heart Rate, #91- Physical Fitness in Space.

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