Space Stations: Sponge Spool Spine

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In this activity, learners simulate what happens to a human spine in space by making Sponge Spool Spines (alternating sponge pieces and spools threaded on a pipe cleaner). This represents a human spine on Earth, with the discs (sponges) pressed between the spinal vertebrae (the wooden spools). Learners measure the spine length, dip it in a glass of water (simulating microgravity), and then re-measure the spine. They will find it has expanded, just like in space! This activity station is part of a sequence of stations that can be set up to help learners explore how space affects the human body and why.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • A tall, clear (not translucent) container filled ¾ full with water (a clear 2-liter soda bottle with the top few inches cut off works well)
  • A ruler
  • 1 pencil (slightly sharpened)
  • Scratch paper and writing utensils
  • Children's Guide for Sponge Spool Spine
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Small wooden spools
  • Sponge cut-outs, about the size of a dime
  • Circular sponges cut-out about the size of a half-dollar for a Sponge Spool Spine head (optional)


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Astronomy
    • Solar System
  • Life Sciences
    • Human Body
      • Skeleton
      • Health and Nutrition
  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
    • States of Matter
      • Liquids
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results
    • Science as a Career

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Model Building


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate's Education Program