Students at the Esperero Canyon Middle School are improving their green thumbs and helping advance NASA research on growing plants in space.

Their contribution is part of a program called Growing Beyond Earth. According to the website, it allows them to learn and work with a Fairchild-designed plant habitat similar to the Vegetable Production System (Veggie) on the International Space Station.

“[It’s] cool to see because some of them have grown really fast, some have grown really slow,” said sixth grader Sara Madigan. “It’s cool to see how every day, they have, like, somehow changed.”

In partnership with NASA, part of the students’ academic contribution looks at whether there’s a difference between the plants which were and weren’t in space.

“I think the reason it’s cool, is because you get to help with something that big,” Isaac Jorquera explained. “You are helping NASA growing plants in space.”

Currently, this programs is going on in more than than 400 middle and high schools in 48 states and eight countries.

“What we found, is that if we do it correctly, we might be able to make plants and farms on Mars,” said Azalea Bailin