Our Space Station Earth

6, 7, 8

This lesson is intended to foster an understanding that natural resources require careful stewardship and that recycling is one of the ways we can guarantee that these resources will be able to continue to sustain life on "space station" Earth.

PrintOne Fifty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • develop an awareness of the need to conserve and recycle air and water.
  • discover the water cycle and photosynthesis as nature’s way of recycling and revitalizing itself.
  • understand how individuals contribute to the problem of misusing of our natural resources and how they can help alleviate misuse.
  • investigate environments where natural resources are being misused.
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework: The homework assignment requires the learner to survey adult members in the home as well as reflect on what could be done in the home to avoid misusing the natural resources of air and water and/or recycle.


  1. Anticipatory Set:Place a small paper cup of drinking water on each learner's desk. As the learners enter the room, drink from your paper cup and encourage them to drink from their paper cup as well. If possible, have the learners move to a computer lab, or if they have their own online laptops computers place the following URL for them to access and read: If online computer access is not be available, download and hand each learner, as they enter the room, a copy of the NASA News Release # 03-017 dated 1/28/03 found at the URL site noted above. Instruct the learners to read this article and while they are reading it be sure to observe their comments, facial expressions, and body language. When it appears that most learners have finished reading, ask the learners to share their thoughts about the article. You may have to share some of the things you observed as they were reading to get the conversation started. To stimulate discussion ask the learners: "If you had known that the water you just drank was recycled, would you have drunk it?"

  2. Following this discussion time, ask the learners to recall that the article talked about how each of the three crewmembers is allocated just 4.4 gallons of water per day. By comparison, the average American uses 60 gallons per day on Earth. Ask them to share how they think that the average American uses these 60 gallons of water a day.

  3. Distribute Where Has All the Water Gone? (Handout One) and share with the learners that this shows some of the ways that they might use water.

  4. Have the learners follow the directions and fill out the Where Has All the Water Gone? (Handout One) totaling their estimated usage. In turn, have each of them share their total. Tally these totals as they are given.

  5. Once a total is determined, have the learners consider other ways that they might use water that are not listed on the handout.

  6. Ask the learners to share why they think the crewmembers are not allowed to take the typical 60 gallons of water a day aboard the space station.

  7. Share with the learners that like the space station they just read about, there is only so much water available on this “Space Station Earth” and that everyday, it is essential that this natural resource be conserved as well as recycled.

  8. Ask the learners if they recall from earlier lessons in science what the process by which this recycling occurs is called involving evaporation, condensation and precipitation. (Answer: The Water Cycle).

  9. Discuss and reach a consensus of opinion about whether the water cycle operates more efficiently from a fresh body of water or one that is polluted?

  10. Discuss the impact of wasteful use, smog, gasoline and diesel fumes, oil slicks, scum, human and animal waste, toxic waste, etc. might have on the Water Cycle. Will it speed the process up or slow it down? Why?

  11. Share that air is also a valuable natural resource aboard a space station and that it too needs to be conserved and recycled. Talk about the consequences of not having enough air/oxygen and that “Space Station Earth” needs this natural resource to be recycled as well if we are to survive.

  12. Ask the learners if they recall from earlier lessons the process by which this recycling occurs: we breathe air that supplies our cells with oxygen, waste gas - carbon dioxide - is breathed out, and used by green plants to make and give off oxygen as a waste product - the oxygen we need to survive.

  13. Have the learners share what impact wasteful use, smog, gasoline and diesel fumes, oil slicks, scum, human and animal waste, and toxic waste might have on this natural process. Will it speed the process up or slow it down? Why?

  14. Sum up this portion of the lesson by challenging the learners to list all the things that water and air make possible for us to survive on “Space Station Earth.”

  15. Have the learners agree that recycling is important not only in space but here on Earth. Place the word "stewardship" on the display board and challenge the learners to define the word giving them the clue that recyclers are often referred to as stewards of our natural resources.

  16. Assign the learners Homework (Handout Two) requiring an interview of the adults in their home to help the learners identify at least two very apparent misuses of our Earth’s natural resource (air and water) and then write a brief description of what could be done in the home to avoid misusing these natural resources and/or recycle them.


The learner’s involvement in class discussion, the depth of understanding and insights shared, and the completion of the Common Water Uses and Amounts (Handout One) provide the basis for assessment in this lesson.

Cross Curriculum 

The learners will conduct a survey in their homes to discover areas where natural resources, water and air, could be better conserved.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Define <i>stewardship</i> as a trust of common resources held by a community for citizens.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibilities.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.