Grade Level/Course Code: SNC1P - Grade 9 Applied Level Science

Strand(s) and Unit(s): Earth and Space Science: Space Exploration

Overview: This activity can be used as a culminating activity, as it will bring aspects of all of the major strands of the grade 9 science curriculum together. Students are to design and build a space station to support a human colony on another planet or moon. Along with analyzing the challenges of space exploration, they will focus on electrical needs of their colony, how they can support life on the planet by developing a sustainable ecosystem, and the challenges of gas exchange.

Inquiry Focus: Some of the topics that students need to address in this project include:

Earth and Space Science: Space Exploration

  • Determining if a planet or moon would be suitable for a space colony or determining which planet or moon would be suitable for a space colony

Physics: Electrical Applications

  • Determining the method that would be best choice for generating electricity in space
  • Determining the type of wiring is best suited in their colony living quarters and designing a wiring plan for their living quarters

Biology: Sustainable Ecosystems and Human Activity

  • Determining which plants and animal species that would be suitable for a colony on another planet


  • Determining the best ratios of components of air within the colony living quarters (CO2, O2, etc.) and how to best achieve this

Timeline: This is a 4-5 period activity (5-8 hours). 2-3 days will be devoted to the project research and design and 1-2 days to creating the model of the colony.


Big Ideas: The big ideas that this lesson will support include:

Biology: The sustainability of ecosystems depends on balanced interactions between their components.

Chemistry: The use of elements and compounds has both positive and negative effects on society and the environment.

Earth and Space Science: Celestial objects in the solar system have specific properties that can be investigated and understood.

Physics: Electricity is a form of energy produced from a variety of nonrenewable and renewable resources.


Overall Expectations: Grade 9 Applied Science Curriculum

B2. investigate some factors related to human activity that affect terrestrial or aquatic ecosystems, and describe the consequences that these factors have on the sustainability of these ecosystems

C1. analyze how properties of common elements and/or simple compounds affect their use, and assess the social and environmental impact associated with their production or use

D1. analyze the major challenges and benefits of space exploration

E1. assess the major social, economic, and environmental costs and benefits of using electrical energy, distinguishing between renewable and nonrenewable sources, and propose a plan of action to reduce energy costs


Specific Expectations:

B2.4 plan and conduct an inquiry into how a factor related to human activity affects a terrestrial or aquatic ecosystem

B3.2 describe the interdependence of the components within a terrestrial and an aquatic ecosystem, and explain how the components of both systems work together to ensure the sustainability of a larger ecosystem

B3.3 describe the complementary processes of cellular respiration and photosynthesis with respect to the flow of energy and the cycling of matter within ecosystems

C1.1 analyze how the chemical and physical properties of common elements and/or simple compounds affect the use of everyday materials that contain those elements and/or compounds

C2.2 use an inquiry process to identify the physical and chemical properties of common elements and simple common compounds, including gaseous substances

D1.1 research the challenges associated with space exploration, and explain the purpose of materials and technologies that were developed to address these challenges and how these materials and technologies are now used in other fields of endeavour

D3.3 identify the factors that make Earth well suited for the existence of life (e.g., a magnetosphere that protects the planet from solar wind; Earth’s distance from the sun; the ability of Earth’s atmosphere to trap heat, preventing extreme fluctuations in temperature)

E1.1 assess social, economic, and environmental costs and benefits of using a renewable and a non-renewable source of electrical energy

E2.4 design, draw circuit diagrams of, and construct simple series and parallel circuits (e.g., circuits with: one light bulb; two light bulbs of the same brightness; one light bulb on and the other light bulb off)


Key Concepts: inquiry, research, space, making connections


Prior Skill Sets: research skills (print and digital sources), collaboration skills for group work, time management


Prior Knowledge: This lesson would work best if it was near the end of the semester having given students the opportunity to learn about chemistry, ecology, and electricity.


Materials and Equipment (for each group): a cardboard box, 12 wires with alligator clips, four 3W light bulbs, four switches, four D batteries with holders, masking or scotch tape, scissors


Safety: No safety precautions other than the safe handling and use of scissors.


Instructional Planning and Delivery:

This will be a scaffolded assignment where the class will begin each session with a discussion on the previous days findings. After which, the teacher will explain the next phase of the research, show a short video or two, and give students the opportunity to complete the research.


Day 1- Introduction to the Inquiry Activity and Research Period

Students are generally interested in space exploration especially since it is a relatively new field of study. Prior to introducing the activity, pass out blank cards to students and ask them to do the following:

  1. Write down one thing you currently know about space exploration.
  2. Write down a question about space exploration that you want to know but don’t have the answers to yet.

After this, engage the class in a discussion on the challenges and benefits of space exploration. This can be done as an entire group or students can be organized into groups. Provide the questions below and using white boards or chart paper have students come up with answers. After a period of time take up the answers as a class and discuss the various answers adding anything that was missed to the white boards. Once done, students can take pictures of their white boards and this can serve as a resource for the rest of the activity.  

Introductory questions for discussion include:

  1. Do you think that the Canadian government spending millions of dollars on our space program is a good use of money? Student answers will vary.
  2. What are some of the benefits of a space program? What are some of the negatives of a program? Student answers: Benefits include learning more about our solar system, develop technology that can be used on Earth, explore other planets; Negatives include high cost and the risk of human lives.
  3. There are many groups throughout the world who are trying to figure out if having a human colony on another planet is a good idea. What do you think about this? Student answers will vary.
  4. Why would anyone consider setting up a human colony on another planet? Student answers: running out of resources on Earth, lean more about other planets, etc.
  5. What are some of the challenges that must be overcome to living on another planet? Student answers: oxygen, food, energy, etc.

Let students know that creating a colony on another planet is extremely difficult and that there is still a lot to be learned before it can be achieved. Have students read the article ‘When a Mars Simulation Goes Wrong’.

It is here that you will be introducing the activity (hand out worksheet #1). Explain to them that over the next several class periods, students will be working in groups to design a colony to live on another planet/moon. There will be numerous issues that each group must address: generating a proposal of their research and recommendations (worksheet #2 can serve as a template), a drawing of a schematic circuit diagram of the living quarters, and creating a model of their living quarters.

For the remainder of the first day, students will be given the opportunity to get into their groups, brainstorm ideas for their project, and discuss their inquiry questions about space that they had during the beginning of class. After this, ask them to research the answers to their inquiry questions, and a good location for their colony. You can provide them with the following websites to help them get started on their research:


Day 2 - Research Period

On day 1, students were introduced to the project, asked to generate and answer inquiry questions about space exploration, and began to research a suitable planet or moon for their colony. During day 2, students will focus on the logistics of life on another planet or moon. Begin class by asking students to discuss the following with a neighboring person/group:

  1. What planet or moon have you selected as the best place for your colony? Explain why you have made this selection. This would lead to a discussion of the pros and cons of their selection, or give students ideas for their planet/moon.
  2. What question about space exploration did you want to know about yesterday? What is the answer to this question?

The following questions/activities should be completed as a class.

  1. After the discussion, explain that for humans to survive they need their basic needs met. Food will be a challenge. Ask students: How do people living on the International Space Station (ISS) get their food? How about water? They may or may not know. Have them read the article: No Pizza in Space? ( and discuss where they get food from.  After the video ask this question: Is how they feed astronauts on the ISS a viable way to feed a colony on another planet/moon? Answers will vary, however, the general consensus will be no. They will have to grow their own food.
  2. Afterwards watch the video 'Colonizing the Moon' ( and discuss that challenges and goals of a colony on the Moon.   

The focus of research on day 2 will be ecology and chemistry. Let students know that the major questions they need to answer day 2 are:

  1. What are 5 plant species that make sense to bring with you to cultivate? What are 5 animal species that you will bring? Explain your selections. Create a food web that include all of your plants and animals (they do not all have to connect with each other). Why would it be important to have decomposers in your food web? Add them to the food web where appropriate.
  2. What gases do you need in the atmosphere for both your plants and animals to survive?

Give students the rest of the period to discuss and research the topic above.


Day 3 - Researching the Electrical Needs of the Colony

After day two, have a brief discussion about some of the living organisms each group think would be suitable to bring to a colony on another planet. Ask students:

  1. Why do humans select one plant species over another for farming? What are some important characteristics that farmed plants have?

Day three will mostly be spent researching the electrical needs of a colony (worksheet #3). Two areas in particular: what method of generating electricity makes sense for an extraterrestrial environment, and what would the wiring look like in your colony living quarters? Spend a few minutes reviewing schematic diagrams and loads. As a class, show them what a simple schematic would look for the living quarters. Today they will draw a model of their living quarters and draw the schematic circuit diagram for the wiring in the colony.


Day 4 and/or 5 – Completing the Model

With most of the research done, it is time for students to construct their model, finish their schematics, and their proposals. The goal for them on Day 4 will be to wire their model in the same way as their schematic diagram. If students cut off the top of a cardboard box, they can then use the ‘floor’ to construct the wiring for their model. Let them know that the wiring in a room is generally in the walls and out of sight but they can tape their wires to the wall of their cardboard model to show this same effect. 


Assessment Opportunities: The assessment can be graded according to the rubric with the title: Rubric for Assessment


Future Opportunities /Extensions: This activity leads itself well into collaboration between departments. A few examples of this include:

Technology - a construction technology class could be enlisted in helping with the design and/or building of the model

English – journal writing of their time living on the colony

Math – calculating energy consumption or generation, calculating distances in space etc.

Civics – determining system of government or system of justice

The assessment can also be altered to make it shorter (ie. not building the 3D model of the living quarters) or lengthened depending on the needs of your students.