Hillmount Garden Centre has provided P5 pupils at Downey House with gardening equipment to enable children at the south Belfast prep school to participate in an out of this world experiment backed by British Astronaut Tim Peake.
After a nervous wait, Mrs Jennings, P5 teacher at Downey House, received confirmation that the school’s application to the ‘Rocket Science Experiment,’ in partnership with the UK Space Agency, had been accepted and, along with 600,000 children across the UK, the P5 class received their rocket seeds on their arrival back down to earth.
Mrs Jennings said: “We completed a detailed application form so there was great excitement in the school when we were told we’d been chosen to participate in the experiment. The children have been so enthusiastic about getting involved in this historic food and science project and in becoming space biologists.”
Downey House received one red packet and one blue packet of rocket seeds each containing a minimum of 100 seeds. One pack contained seeds that have travelled to space while the other remained on earth. They are being grown side by side for 35 days but, until the end of the experiment, it remains a secret as to whether the red or blue packed seeds actually travelled with Tim Peake.
Alan Mercer, Managing Director, Hillmount Garden Centre, said: “We host a ‘Kids Gardening Club’ at Hillmount on the first Saturday of every month as we are committed to encouraging young children to learn and enjoy all aspects of horticulture. We are very excited for the outcome of such an out of this world national campaign and it’s a privilege for us to provide the equipment Downey House needed to help their Space Biologists participation in the experiment lift off.”
Tim has wished the children well with their investigations into the impact of micro-gravity and space travel on seed germination and growth. The results will help to form a clearer picture of the potential for astronauts to grow their own food to sustain them on long-term missions.
Speaking while 400km above the surface of the Earth, Tim said: “This is a really exciting week for the hundreds of thousands of young people across the country who will begin their Rocket Science experiments. I’d like to wish everyone taking part the best of luck with their investigations and I look forward to seeing some of the results.
“It’s possible that among those pupils taking part in the project are the young people who will help mankind reach the next big milestones in space exploration for the benefit of people on Earth. I hope the RHS Campaign for School Gardening’s Rocket Science experiment will spark curiosity and wonder amongst young people who may become the next generation of horticultural scientists.”
The aim of the experiment is to enthuse young people about science and horticulture and provide the European Space Agency with key insights into some of the challenges of growing food in space.
Results of the experiment will be made available after all data has been submitted to Royal Horticultural Society.