Heather Hava and her space garden

Heather Hava is an inventor. Heather is a gardener. She is a very special gardener. Heather calls herself a space gardener. She creates new ways for plants to grow in outer space! Have you ever thought about how plants grow in space? How would humans live in space if they couldn’t buy food at a grocery store?

How Heather Became a Space Gardener

Heather loved to play with her LEGO® bricks when she was a young girl. She also loved creating things with cardboard boxes and duct tape. Heather would save her cardboard boxes. Then she would build the things she thought up with her imagination.

“Cardboard boxes!” you might exclaim. “I have lots of cardboard boxes. Maybe I can be an inventor, too.” Imagine something that you could build with a cardboard box. Write and draw about it.

My cardboard box is…



Heather and Her Goals

When Heather was little, she dreamed of being an astronaut. Some people discouraged her from this dream. Heather did not listen to them. Instead, she made a 10-year plan. She turned her dream into a goal and started following her plan. Heather learned all she could about science when she was in school. As she got older, she thought about going to college. She needed to find a college for people who wanted to be astronauts. Colleges for astronauts are very difficult to get into. Not everyone who wants to go gets accepted. Do you know what Heather did? She researched what she needed to be accepted. Then she made mini-goals for herself.

Heather’s mini-goals included finding ways to experience the things that astronauts do. She flew on a zero-gravity airplane so she could feel the weightless feeling that astronauts feel. Heather did research up on that plane. She learned how to do things in an environment where everything (including Heather!) could float.

Heather took another step to reach her goal. She went to a special camp in the desert. She practiced what it would be like to live on Mars. Heather lived with six people in a camp for two weeks. The camp was made to be as much like Mars as possible. At camp, Heather’s job was feeding the crew for the two weeks. This was a challenge. They only had one small refrigerator. The refrigerator was about the size of a toy box!

Is there something that you wish you could do? This is a goal! Do you have one BIG goal like Heather? Do you have SMALLER goals that will help you reach your BIG goal? Heather had MINI-goals to help her reach her BIG goal. Write down your BIG and MINI- goals. Talk to an adult about your goals. Make a plan to reach your BIG Goal.

My BIG goal is:  ________________________________________________________

My MINI-goals are:

  1. ________________________________________________________________
  2. ________________________________________________________________
  3. ________________________________________________________________
  4. ________________________________________________________________
  5. ________________________________________________________________

How Heather Became an Inventor

Heather had to ration the food so the six people at the camp could eat for the two weeks. Ration means she had to divide all the food in the small refrigerator. She had six people she had to feed for 14 days. This experience helped Heather identify a problem. All inventors identify problems. Heather’s problem was that it was difficult for astronauts to get enough fresh food to eat! Fresh food keeps people healthy. Heather cares about astronauts and wants them to be healthy in space. So, Heather started working to solve the problem. This is how Heather became a space gardener and an inventor!

Let’s look at the Invention Cycle. Can you follow what Heather did to invent a solution?

Invention cycle: find and define problems, inquire & research, design, build & test

Heather found a problem. Then she started researching the problem. Heather learned that being an astronaut takes a lot of hard work. Heather also learned that farming on earth takes a lot of hard work. Heather found that growing plants in space was an even bigger challenge. She didn’t want to add more hard work to the astronauts who were already working very hard with their astronaut duties.

Heather wanted to make growing plants in space easier. She also wanted astronauts to have fun growing plants. Interacting with the plants could give astronauts more energy to do their other work. Heather had an idea! She wanted to repurpose plants to not just be food, but to help the astronauts feel more at home in space.

INVENTION WORD ALERT! What does repurpose mean? This is a word made up of a prefix, re-, and an existing word, purpose. The prefix re- means “again.” We can add a prefix to a word as a shortcut to its meaning. “Repurpose” is a shorter way of saying to purpose something again. Can you think of two words that start with the prefix re-?

We added two words that start with the prefix re-. Can you think of two more words and write them here? What do these words mean? Be careful. There are words that start with the letters “re” that are not a prefix.

Redo means do it again.

React means to act again.

________________ means to _____________________________________________.

________________ means to _____________________________________________.

Do you remember your Cardboard Box activity? What idea did you have for your cardboard box? You “repurposed” your box to be something else. This is what inventors do all the time!

Inventors often use their imaginations and repurpose things, which means to use them in different ways and for a new purpose.

Inventors repurpose things to make new things! Sometimes they turn what they see in nature into new things. Sometimes, something will inspire an inventor. Then they will use their imagination to make something brand new. Here are some examples:

  • Paper and an adhesive that didn’t stick well became Post-It® notes
  • Soft, moldable material developed and used for a wall cleaner became Play-Doh®
  • Cockle-burs and their hooked attachment inspired the invention of Velcro®
  • Batman’s grappling hook inspired the invention of the rope ascenders

Let’s practice thinking like Heather and other inventors. How could you repurpose things in your recycling bin:


Yogurt container______________________________________________________________

Plastic bottle_________________________________________________________________

Oatmeal container ______________________________________________________

Parmesan cheese shaker________________________________________________________________

Back to Heather’s Story

Heather’s inventions help astronauts happily grow healthy food in space. Heather’s inventions also help people on earth grow food in a sustainable way. Growing food sustainably means that the way food is grown won’t harm the earth. It won’t take too many nutrients from the soil. It won’t use too much water. And, it won’t take too many resources, like fuel, to get the food to people.

Heather cares about supporting life on earth as well as in space. She cares about helping people and the environment. She understands that young inventors, just like you, can learn from experienced inventors like herself. She mentors young women who are interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to help them become inventors. Do you have mentors who visit your classroom?

“Learning is never done,” says Heather. She’s already an accomplished inventor and space gardener. She was awarded a Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for her inventions with space gardening. View a video of Heather receiving her award. Heather keeps learning! There is always something useful and unique to invent. There are always people to help.

Extend the Learning