The next frontier

This lesson for students aged 7-11 is about life on extremely long space journeys, and how to provide enough food and water to keep astronauts going.

Lesson outline

Step 1: Starter to link to pupil experience
Introduce the topic of extremely long journeys by starting with talking about pupils’ greatest or most extreme experiences.

Step 2: Develop through imagination the concept of ‘space tools’ capable of making food and water
This section is set up as a mystery: what amazing, cutting edge technology could astronauts possibly use to generate their food, oxygen and water on a journey to mars? Encourage pupil’s imagination and then reveal simple ‘space tools’ in the classroom.

Step 3: Main investigation to measure change across a semi-permeable membrane and two solutions of different concentration
Pupils plan, predict and carry out a practical activity to measure and record the changes to a gummy bear (or potato stick).

Step 4: Plenary sets a further amazing possibility
Food, whilst amazing, can possibly be made in space. Water, whilst amazing, can be made safe enough to drink. What about artificial gravity? Leave pupils to wonder: could that be possible too?


Children will be able to work scientifically by:

  • Making systematic and careful observations and, where appropriate, taking accurate measurements using standard units, to make observations over time

Children will learn:

  • That animals, including humans, need the right types and amount of nutrition, and that they cannot make their own food; they get nutrition from what they eat

Cross-curricular opportunities:

  • Speaking and listening in groups

Video clips

Download the teachers' guide for instructions on how to use these clips:

Kevin Fong showing how a filtering bag allows him to drink his own urine:

Kevin creates artificial gravity with cups of water:

If you have trouble accessing YouTube videos in your school, you can watch the urine drinking and water spinning films on the Ri Channel.

Lesson material

Download the full teachers' guide.

You'll also need the PowerPoint presentation.

Primary resources produced by the University of Manchester's Science & Engineering Education Research and Innovation Hub

Watch the full lectures

View the full CHRISTMAS LECTURES, How to survive in space, on the Ri Channel:

Supported by the UKSA