Manchester Essex middle schoolers meet moon challenge | Local News

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MANCHESTER — Showing that the dreams of the younger set can be out of this world, Manchester Essex Regional Middle School students have been recognized for their efforts to show how vegetable crops can grow on the moon and Mars.

The middle-schoolers participated in the “Plant the Moon Challenge,” a global science experiment to help NASA scientists understand how to use lunar soil to provide nutritious crops for future moon or Mars missions. The February effort was backed by a grant from the Massachusetts Space Grant Consortium.

Five teams of Manchester Essex sixth-graders worked to solve the challenge of designing experiments that would grow crops using simulations of lunar soil.

Project completion certificates were awarded to all students who were part of the effort.

“Through this project-based learning challenge, students practiced decision making, experiment design and used data to make adjustments to their initial plans,” said Superintendent Pamela Beaudoin. “We are so proud of the collaborative work they produced and it is amazing to see their experiment be recognized as Best in Show.”

The project “Who Let the Plants Out?” studied how a self-sustaining environment with different amounts of water affected the growth of marigolds and green beans in 50% lunar soil with additives. Students used hardy plants for the experiment that would grow well within the limited timeline of two months.

“This was an exceptional experiment and the team did a great job,” said Science Advisory Board Project Reviewer Mike Lewis. “In short, they did everything you need to drive innovation.”

Each team received five lunar soil kits from event organizers as well as materials and equipment from parents and community supporters. Donations were also made by Black Earth Compost and Cressey Nursery.

Students completed their projects under the oversight of Middle School teacher Vidula Plante, who applied for the MASGC grant, and with the aid of Grade 6 science teacher Ross Cowman.

Of the 310 final reports entered, the Manchester Essex Regional Middle School Academy’s E-block class team was awarded “Best in Show for Most Innovative Experiment” at the middle school level.

Stephen Hagan can be reached at 978-675-2708 or at

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