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Scientist Spends 13 Days Underwater







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Grades 2-up

News Content

Many lessons can be learned from a scientist who lived in an underwater habitat for 13 days.

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, ask students to agree or disagree with each of the statements below. This will set a purpose for reading; as they read, students will confirm their assumptions or learn something new.

  • A person can live underwater for days at a time.
  • Plants are good sources of oxygen for people.
  • A bicycle can provide power to run a computer.
  • Algae, plants that grow underwater, are a source of food for humans.

    News Words

    Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: deliver, oxygen, wildest, produce, carbon dioxide, and algae. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • Uncle Bob spent the day cleaning off _____ that had grown on the inside of the aquarium. (algae)
  • Mike carried a spare _____ tank so he would have plenty of air for the deep-sea dive. (oxygen)
  • I wonder if the mailman will _____ the next issue of the magazine today? (deliver)
  • Workers in the factory _____ parts for automobiles. (produce)
  • Pablo has the _____ imagination of anyone I know. (wildest)
  • Plants and trees help keep our air clean by removing _____ from it. (carbon dioxide)

    Read the News

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

    • Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.
    • Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.
    • Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.
    • Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.
    Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Scientist Spends 13 Days Underwater.

    More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.

  • So why in the world did 29-year-old Lloyd Godson want to live underwater for 13 days? Godsons goal was to make a point about sustainable living. While underwater, he used a wireless Internet connection to stay in touch with schoolchildren around the world and teach them about the ecosystems he was using to sustain life in his underwater habitat.
  • Godson generated his own electricity by pedaling a stationary bicycle attached to a generator. He used that electricity to light his habitat and to charge his laptop computer. A system of solar panels supplemented the bicycle power.
  • Godson used Biocoil, a system of algae, to provide oxygen for the underwater habitat. The plants took in carbon dioxide (CO2) from Godson and gave off oxygen (O2) for him to breathe. In turn, Godson exhaled CO2, which sustained the plants. Biocoil was developed by students in an advanced biology class at Cascade (Idaho) High School. (Did you know that humans are affected by too much carbon dioxide in the air more quickly than by a lack of oxygen?)
  • Lights were on constantly in the BioSUB in order to grow the algae (promote photosynthesis).
  • Godson also recycled his own urine and waste.
  • NASA was closely watching Godsons experiment for information that might inform how astronauts will be able to live in space for long periods of time.
  • "Part of what I am doing is education, part is applying science and using new technologies, part is looking at how someone survives an alien environment and isolation psychologically, and the last part is just pure adventure," Godson told Australian Geographic.
  • Cranes lowered the 8- by 11-foot BioSUB into a lake near Albury, Australia. "It's pretty tight quarters, but there are a few things you have to consider when trying to get that sized air bubble under water," Godson told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). "For example, I need about 34 tons of concrete to sink something that size. You have to weigh up the different aspects, although it is not a huge amount of space it is a compromise between space and how much concrete I'll need to get it under the water."
  • During his 13-day underwater stay, Godson was in frequent contact with the outside world via computer connections. In addition, divers delivered food -- including fruit, nuts and a homemade lasagna -- and drinking water to the sub. And an "Easter shark" even swam by with a supply of chocolate eggs! Divers delivered the goods (and the daily newspaper) through a manhole in the bottom of the BioSUB.
  • During the missions last days, Godson began eating algae grown in the BioSUB. Algae is high in protein and other essential nutrients. When dried, it is about 45 percent protein, 20 percent fat, 20 percent carbohydrate, and 10 percent various minerals and vitamins, according to Godsons Web site. He held off eating algae until the last days -- just in case it upset his stomach. If it did that in the early days of the adventure, he might not make it to the end.
  • Before his "launch" underwater, Godson had eight years of scuba diving experience. He also spent 10 days in 2003 at Scott Base, Antarctica. Godson kept scuba gear nearby throughout his stay in the BioSUB -- just in case he had to make a quick escape. He also had a small air supply attached to his body so he could catch a few breaths while he got into his scuba gear.
  • When Godson finally emerged from his underwater cocoon, he told CBS News, "It's nice to feel the sunshine on the face and the breeze here. You start to get a bit of cabin fever, but ... I thought it was going to drive me a bit more nuts than it did."
  • In order to keep himself entertained while submerged, Godson watched movies on his laptop.
  • Funding for the BioSUB project was provided through a $42,000 Live Your Dream grant from the Australian Geographic Society.

    Comprehension Check

    Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson; ask students to respond again to the statements in it.

  • A person can live underwater for days at a time. (true)
  • Plants are good sources of oxygen for people. (true)
  • A bicycle can provide power to run a computer. (true)
  • Algae, plants that grow underwater, are a source of food for humans. (true)

    You might follow-up that activity by asking some of these questions:

    Recalling Detail

  • How big was the BioSUB in which Lloyd Godson lived? (about 8 x 11 feet in size)
  • In which country did Godson complete his BioSUB experiment? (Australia)
  • How long did Godson stay in the BioSUB? (13 days)
  • What was Godsons main source of air? (algae plants)
  • How were divers able to deliver food to Godson? (They passed it to him through a manhole in the bottom of the BioSUB.)
  • For what purposes did Godson use an exercise bicycle? (to create electricity and, of course, for exercise)
  • How was Godson able to keep in touch with students while he was living underwater? (A wireless Internet connection gave him access to kids around the world.)

    Think About the News
    Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page. You might use the think-pair-share strategy with students to discuss this question. If you use this strategy

  • First, arrange students into pairs to discuss and list responses on both sides of the debate.
  • Then merge two pairs of students together to create groups of four students. Have them discuss and add to the ideas they generated in their pairs.
  • Next, merge two groups of four students to form groups of eight students. Have students create a new combined list of ideas.
  • Finally, bring all students together for a class discussion about the pros and cons of an experiment like the one Godson undertook.

    History and critical thinking
    Refer to explorers with whom your students are familiar -- pioneers who were the first to go where others had not traveled -- such as Christopher Columbus, the Pilgrims of Plymouth, Lewis and Clark, or Neil Armstrong. Ask: Some people say Lloyd Godson is a modern-day pioneer. Would you agree or disagree with that statement?

    Follow-Up Activities

    Letter writing. Lloyd Godson paid for the BioSUB project with $42,000 he won in the "Live Your Dream" contest sponsored by an Australian nature magazine. Ask: What is something you would really like to do if you had the money and the courage to do it? Write a letter explaining your dream and why you want to do it.

    Math -- the metric system. The metric system of measurement is used in many countries. The metric system measures things in meters, grams, and liters instead of yards, ounces, and quarts. Share this online metric converter with your students. Have them practice converting English (imperial) measurement units to metric units.

    Hands-on science. Help students understand how the BioSUB did not fill with water when it was submerged and the manhole on its underside was opened. Fill a clear bowl with water. Turn a glass upside down and force it into the water. Does the glass fill up with water? Why not? (The glass is full of air, so there is no room in the glass for water. Air in the glass pushes down on the water.) You might ask students what happens when a canoe flips over. Some will know that you can stay under the canoe and still breathe because the flipped canoe creates a pocket of air underneath it.

    Language arts. People who live in different places have different expressions. Give students time to identify expressions in their vocabulary that they know to be regional in nature. Then select some of these Australian expressions to share with students. See if they can identify what the expressions might mean. (Note: Be sure to handpick expressions that are appropriate for the age of your students.) You might write ten of the expressions on a sheet of chart paper and have students choose five of them to use in written sentences.


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    MATHEMATICS: Measurement
    GRADES Pre-K - 2
    NM-MEA.PK-2.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
    GRADES 3 - 5
    NM-MEA.3-5.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
    GRADES 6 - 8
    NM-MEA.6-8.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NM-MEA.9-12.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.3 Life Science
    NS.K-4.4 Earth and Space Science
    NS.K-4.5 Science and Technology
    NS.K-4.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.3 Life Science
    NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space Science
    NS.5-8.5 Science and Technology
    NS.5-8.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.3 Life Science
    NS.9-12.4 Earth and Space Science
    NS.9-12.5 Science and Technology
    NS.9-12.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

    GRADES K - 12
    NT.K-12.1 Basic Operations and Concepts
    NT.K-12.2 Social, Ethical, and Human Issues
    NT.K-12.4 Technology Communications Tools
    NT.K-12.6 Technology Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Tools

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Ellen Delisio and Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
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