As we monitor the progress of the monarchs in space, my class has had several great conversations about the issue of waste products (which kids enjoy talking about for a variety of reasons!!).
One conversation came up early on, after the first few days of pictures. Kids would repeatedly ask, "When are they going to clean out their cage?" My guess is that they don't plan to ever open the enclosure - maybe there is a risk of contamination to the space station if waste products or other materials escape? It is a bit difficult for them to understand. It would be cool if we could have emailed questions for periodic answers, although I understand that may have required more time for everyone involved than was allowed.
A second conversation came up just before the butterflies were going to emerge. One student asked, "What's going to happen with the liquid waste that comes out when butterflies hatch?" I showed them the NASA video of eating on the ISS. We wondered how floating liquid would affect the butterflies wings. Our question was answered with the second video - that liquid is covering the glass and their wings are getting periodically stuck.
That brings us to our third question: If we were to live in space without gravity, what would happen to the waste products of animals? We could take care of the issue with human waste, as they do on the ISS. But we can't control how and when animals release waste. How would it be to exist if waste was floating around like in the monarch enclosure? How would decomposers be able to do their job of breaking down waste and dead matter?
Has anyone else had conversations along these lines? Any interesting thoughts?