After taking an in-depth look at missions to Mars (blog entry) and learning more about the planets in the solar system (blog entry), we learned about past, present, and future unmanned space missions and their mission objectives.
Mission Assignments using Google Sheets Template (public link)
Mission Information using Google Slides Presentation Template (public link)
Sample slides from one of my 6th grade groups (pdf)
Each group of students created a shared Google Slides Presentation, and within each group, students were assigned 4-6 numbered slides with specific missions (public link). This was a great way for the students to learn about different missions, practice their research, tech, and collaboration skills, and to get a better understanding of the history of unmanned space missions.
When students were done with their slides, the next class involved a fun game of “Name that Mission” (girls vs boys). Using slides that the students created, I pulled a total of 20 or so slides from different groups and classes and added animations to them. If they could name the mission without clues (just an image of the spacecraft) they earned 2 points, if they named the mission with clues, they earned 1 point.
Below is a video about DAWN – the mission will be arriving at Ceres this week (March 6th) narrated by Leonard Nimoy. LLAP.
NASA has a great interactive website for students to explore how technologies developed for space exploration are used to improve our daily lives. I made a handout to help guide the students through the website and learn more about items that they used or found interesting. Using their handout, they listed and compared how NASA used or developed the technology to how we use the technology.
I used this activity last week with my 6th graders and I was happy with how the activity went. Students were engaged, challenged, and made great observations about the planets. They came up with a variety of ways to organize the planets into categories based on data from the fact cards.
It was challenging to come up with categories that neither student had used yet once they met with their 3rd partner. This lead to longer discussions and deeper thinking between each pair, which lead to categorizing the planets in categories that were less obvious at first.
Students worked at their own pace and let me know when they needed a new partner. This staggered the pairings and allowed both the students who needed more time and the students who worked quickly to work at a pace that was comfortable for them. Students also enjoyed trading partners and changing seats.
This is an updated version on how to use the ‘Jigsaw Method’ for students to learn about cell organelles that includes a tech component – each expert group will create Power Point slides for their assigned organelles. When each expert group is done, they will have one complete set of slides that they will use to teach each other in their home groups, use as a resource to review at home, and/or print out flashcards (4-6 slides per page) if needed.
Group 1 contains an expert from A, B, C, & D. All of the “A” members will sit together to research their assigned organelles. Each member of group A will research and create their own slides for the Nucleus (slide 2), Nucleolus (slide 3), Chromatin (slide 4), and Centrioles (slide 5). Home group members (B, C, & D) will add their information to the rest of the slides at the same time A is adding information from the A expert group.
On each slide, they will include the following information:
Name of organelle
Location (Nucleus or Cytoplasm?)
Plant, Animal, or Both?
Images of the organelle
Image of an analogy for that organelle
Encourage students to use the animation feature to have the information appear sequentially instead of seeing all the information as soon as they advance to the next slide. This will help with note taking when they are presenting their information to their home group.
After each expert group is done with their research, they will return to their home group. The member from group A will go first, and using presentation mode in Google Slides (via desktop/laptop/tablet) they will teach their home group about the nucleus, nucleolus, chromatin, and centrioles. Members B, C, and D will write their notes on the handout provided. When A is done, the member from expert group B (via desktop/laptop/tablet) will present his/her organelles in the same manner.
If possible, having each student use their own laptop or desktop for the research phase (expert groups) and then only one laptop or tablet for the presentation part (home group) would be the best option so that their focus is on the person who is presenting.
Earlier in the school year, to cap off our unit on the environment, my 6th graders completed an environmental issues research project and presentation. This project was a great opportunity for the students to demonstrate both their public speaking and tech skills, as well as provide a forum for student-directed learning. Each student had a chance to teach their peers about their topic and lead a demonstration or activity related to their environmental issue. They did a fantastic job and came up with activities that really enhanced their presentations. The students were engaged and supportive of their peers.
Just a few examples of their demonstrations/activities:
Noise Pollution – using a decibel app, one student asked the class to take part in different activities and monitored the noise level. The student then compared the noise level in the classroom to their equivalents such as jack hammers or traffic.
Garbage Patch – using a tray with an ocean/coastal scene decorated with items attached to magnets, one student demonstrated how gyres in the Pacific Ocean move plastics from the coast to the Great Garbage Patch by sliding magnets under the tray.
Poaching – each student took part in a role-playing game modeled after “Assassin/Spy”. Each student was given a role card (such as an elephant, tiger, or poacher). As they played the game, students had to find the poacher to save as many animals as they could.
This is a great lesson to start off the school year and have students thinking like scientists, learning how to work cooperatively with their lab group, dust off their problem solving skills, be creative, and realize that as scientists get new information, their ideas change.
One of the things that students struggle with is wanting to get the ‘right’ answer and not making a ‘mistake’. They don’t like open-ended results. I stress that they have to look at their data, what does their data tell them? What do we know? What can we find out? As the year goes on, their confidence grows and they learn to really think like scientists.
Before starting the activity, I set the stage that they are a group of archeologists and have discovered an ancient tablet at an archeological dig site. Unfortunately, the tablet is broken and as they excavate, they only find a few pieces at a time. What does the ancient table say? Scientists all over the world try to decipher the ancient text…
Each group is given the same exact 23 words, each slip of paper has one word on it (such as dog, turnip, white, bone, bowl, etc… ). All the words are in the envelope, and they ‘excavate’ 5 words from the envelope. Using those 5 words, they have to guess what the tablet says and make some kind of sentence out of the words. After they write it down, they ‘excavate’ 5 more words and either try to add on to their original story, or make a new story now that they have more information. Once again, after they write down their new hypothesis, they ‘excavate’ another 5 words and either add to their hypothesis, or make a new one. (During this part of the activity, they should whisper quietly so the other groups do not overhear their ideas)
Once everyone has uncovered 15 words and made their 3rd hypothesis, I have each group share their sentence with the class. Even though each group starts out with the same 23 cards, no two groups have uncovered the exact same 15 words (hypothetically). Each group has their own hypothesis and we compare what is similar, what’s different, if there were any common themes, etc…
Now that we have all shared our stories, we ‘excavate’ the rest of the words. They have to use all 23 words to make the final version of their story. This is not as easy as it may sound. By this point, they may have a story they really like and want it to work out, or they may not agree on a final hypothesis, or they may get stuck because they have grouped words together and don’t want to change it: Red dog, red bowl, or red house? Big dog, little dog, fat dog, big red fat dog?
We now share our final hypothesis, or story, with the class and we discuss our results. I then ask, “If we all have the same 23 words, why don’t we all have the same story?” The kids come up with some great reasons as to why. We talk about what challenges they encountered when trying to come up with a story, if there was disagreement in the group, if their stories even made sense, etc…
I then tie it into how scientists may have the same exact information, or data, but come up with different hypotheses and disagree just like they did in this activity. I then bring up the topic of who has the “correct” hypothesis? How do I know what is “correct”? I can’t ask the ancient people what the tablet originally said, so how do I know if my idea is the correct one?
Scientists are always getting new information (just like they got more words to work with) all the time and have to either see if it fits their current data, tweak their ideas using the new data, or come up with a totally new hypothesis and scrap the old one. You can then tie in real examples of how in the past, people thought the world was flat, the sun went around the Earth, that man could never walk on the moon, etc..
After all my classes have done this activity, I then reveal what the “correct” story was and we compare what was the same and what was different.
Note – this lesson plan is a modification of the original lesson plan from The University of California Museum of Paleontology (link)
After our Moon unit, with a focus on the Apollo Missions, we are now looking at Mars. We have talked about the Orion Spacecraft (link) and how we want to return to the moon and eventually travel to an asteroid or Mars (link).
I posed the question: What are some of the different ways we can get information from Mars if people haven’t been there yet? We then discussed the differences between a flyby (paparazzi photographers), orbiters (satellites), landers (stuck in one spot), and rovers (robots that drive).
Before showing the video above, I asked the students to think about how the Curiosity Rover landed on Mars and to brainstorm what the sequence of events would look like for it to get from here to there.
They came up with some really great ideas, and many of them named a few of the different steps from the sequence of events. After seeing the video, we discussed each step of the sequence and why they had to happen in that order, and where things could go wrong. About 50% of our missions to Mars (all countries) have ended in failure.
To get further background information, we looked at the history of Mars exploration. Where have we been? What do we know? What do we want to know? What worked? What didn’t work?
For this activity, I divided the class into small groups. Each group was given a time period of Mars Exploration from the 1960s to future missions. Once each group gathered information for their missions, we briefly discussed each one.
In English and History classes, the students will be learning about Greek Mythology and Life in Ancient Greece. This year we are adding an Astronomy Unit that will include the constellations and incorporate the Greek Myths associated with them. Another nice way to tie Science and English together is to have the students create original poetry about the constellations.
Students can showcase their poetry in several different ways.
As ppt slides set to music
ppt slides printed out and displayed
poetry readings either within the class or visiting the students in other grades