Relevancy and Engagement

Spice-up Space Food

Grade Level
6 - 8

Through project-based learning, students work in groups to create a flavorful and nutritious meal for astronauts to eat in space. They experience careers in food and nutrition, food science, and marketing, research different ways to preserve foods, and discover how food is taken to and eaten in space. Grades 6-8

Estimated Time
Ten 45-minute class periods
Materials Needed

Milestone 1: Entry Event

Milestone 2: Research and Planning

Milestone 3: Product Development

  • Printed articles
  • Laptops or tablets
  • Food in Space reflection sheet

Milestone 4: Final Presentation


food preservation: the process of treating and handling food in such a way as to stop, control, or greatly slow down spoilage and to minimize the possibility of foodborne illness while maintaining the optimum nutritional value, texture, and flavor

freeze-drying: a way to preserve food that removes about 98% of the moisture content

Background Agricultural Connections
Spice-up Space Food is a Project-Based Learning Plan (PBL). PBL is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge.1

A quality PBL experience requires seven essential elements.

  1. Challenging Problem or Question: The project is framed by a meaningful problem to be solved or a question to answer at the appropriate level of challenge.
  2. Sustained Inquiry: Students engage in a rigorous, extended process of posing questions, finding resources, and applying information.
  3. Authenticity: The project involves real-world context, tasks and tools, quality standards, or impact, or the project speaks to personal concerns, interests, and issues in the students' lives.
  4. Voice and Choice: Students make some decisions about the project, including how they work and what they create.
  5. Reflection: Students and teachers reflect on the learning, the effectiveness of their inquiry and project activities, the quality of student work, the obstacles that arise and strategies for overcoming them.
  6. Critique and Revision: Students give, receive, and apply feedback to improve their process and products.
  7. Public Product: Students make their project work public by explaining, displaying, and/or presenting it to audiences beyond the classroom.2

Food in Space

The processes of freeze drying started in the Andes Mountains. People would take crops up to higher elevations and leave them to freeze for days.3 As the vegetable lost water content, the nutritional value remained. This allowed for the preservation and storage of food for emergencies. While we still use freeze drying as a way to preserve food, its current primary purpose is for space food and use in the military.

As we continue to send people into space and travel further from Earth, providing quality and nutritious foods is important. Since the first mission into space, food has improved and continues to improve. Several factors need to be considered while eating space.

Many astronauts share their concern that the food in space doesn't taste as good. Since there is no gravity, astronauts often feel like they have a head cold.4 This causes a reduced sense of taste and smell in space. Due to this reduced sense of taste, astronauts often want to add more seasoning. This is easy when the seasoning is in liquid form. Granulated seasonings cannot be used in space since they could float away and possibly get stuck in equipment.

With so much equipment in space, everything needs to be compact and easy to use. This includes food. Food must be lightweight and easy to store and reheat. As food scientists create food to send into space, these challenges must be considered.

Career Highlights
This PBL plan introduces students to the following career opportunities: food scientist and technologist, dietitian and nutritionist, bakerfood microbiologistfood chemistquality control supervisorfood batchmakermarketing specialist, retail salespersonchefs and head cooks, food service manager. Explore the career profiles to discover job outlooks, education requirements, and average salaries.

At the beginning of the project, students are introduced to key content using a compelling situation that provides context and serves as a catalyst for an authentic problem or challenge. In Project-Based Learning (PBL), this authentic problem/challenge is referred to as an "Entry Event." Students use the Entry Event to initiate inquiry by reflecting on their prior knowledge of the key content, generating questions that they need to know the answers to in order to successfully complete the project or process that will solve the problem, and identifying what their next steps might be to answer their questions. These questions are used in an ongoing way throughout the project to track learning and guide inquiry.5 While students may have several questions, one driving question needs to be agreed upon that, when answered, should address the initial situation. Refer to Milestone 1 for Entry Event procedures.

Explore and Explain

In PBL, projects are organized into milestones. Each milestone represents a significant stage of the project. Click on each milestone below to access instructional procedures.

Milestone 1: Entry Event (approximately 2 days)

Milestone 2: Research and Planning (approximately 2 days)

Milestone 3: Product Development (approximately 3 days)

Milestone 4: Final Presentation (approximately 2 days)


As a final wrap-up, review and summarize the following key points:

  • Food in space must be lightweight and easy to store and reheat.
  • The lack of gravity in space causes astronauts to have a reduced sense of taste and smell.
  • Granulated seasonings cannot be used in space since they could float away and possibly get stuck in equipment. 
Jessica Clark
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