Ms. Moore’s seventh and eighth grade Language Arts classes from Theophilus Schmid Elementary School have been very busy these past few months participating in an interactive videoconference pilot program through the Museum of Science and Industry called Mission to Mars. The program aims to inspire the next generation of NASA scientist and engineers by getting students excited about science.
The program allows students to engage in inquiry-based and hands-on science learning experiences and collaborate between peer groups using video conferencing technologies. The students also were lucky enough to work with a NASA scientist and NASA personnel.
“Working with NASA staff was truly an exhilarating experience,” Moore said. “They had personal stories that connected to the lives of many of my students. They were easy to work with, but also challenged my students to think.”
With the help of Schmid’s Social Emotional Learning Facilitator Clifton Smith, Moore integrated science dealing with the Mission to Mars initiative within the language arts curriculum. This was done by having her students participate in hands- on, in-class mission simulations, during which they were expected to foster collaboration and employ critical-thinking skills and problem-solving strategies.
“It was easy to integrate the language arts curriculum within this mission,” said Moore. “Students had to utilize graphic organizers, read and comprehend nonfictional text and compare and contrast as well.”
Thirty-two students from grades 5th -8th participated in each mission. They were grouped according to popular NASA mission teams such as Alpha, Beta, Delta, etc. Within each group were roles including leader, communicator, recorder and manager. For each of the missions the roles changed as did the members of the teams.
While preparing for each mission students researched STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers, compared and contrasted the main characteristics of Earth and Mars’ spheres and used Google Earth to gather visual data and geographic coordinate of planets’ physical features.
Moore’s students also investigated the existence of a “Golden Record.” In 1977, the Voyager spacecraft launched a “Golden Record” that contained sounds and images portraying the diversity of life and culture on earth in hope that it would be found by another civilization. Similar to the “Golden Record,” students in Moore’s class created their very own “Golden Flash Drive” to show what made their classmates and community unique.
“The students created an individual ID tag that described themselves in pictures, words, symbols and colors,” said Moore. “They also worked as a class to research what made their class and community unique and combined each tag. They were then able to take their flash drive and share it with a school in another part of our state. After sharing, our students learned about the similarities and differences of another class and community.”
The “Golden Flash Drive” impressed The Museum of Science and Industry so much that it is currently being displayed at the museum.
Because of the student’s hard work and preparation on the “Golden Flash Drive” they were invited to participate in two pilot programs in February and May. During the first mission, students researched Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s purpose and function as it relates to NASA and participated in a hands-on mission about jet propulsion at the museum. Their findings were shared with NASA scientist and a participating school from Woodstock, IL.
Moore’s students worked diligently for weeks to prepare for these missions. Upon arrival, students were given the VIP treatment and given a tour of the museum. They were then escorted to the science lab where they discussed their pre-mission activities.
“On January 25, the lab allowed the students to compare and contrast life on Mars versus life on Earth,” said Moore. “They had to work in groups to design and select the best machine that would be the most suitable for finding information on Mars. On February 8, students investigated the structure of a rocket. They had to design and build a simulated rocket that would successfully make it to Mars and discover how people could actually live on the planet.”
On their final mission, students investigated four types of sources, water systems, crops, atmospheres and energies, which would make it possible for humans and animals to live on Mars. They also designed space suits that would be the most suitable for life on Mars by collecting data and providing evidence surrounding temperature and fabric type.
Moore’s class provided feedback about their experiences and received certificates that congratulated them on successfully completing their Mission to Mars. The museum also encouraged them to continue exploring science-related careers.
To learn more about Schmid Elementary click here.