Friday, 9 March 2012

Original Lesson 13: Astronaut Training Camp

Let me start by saying this lesson in no way deserves the title of 'original' as do my posts below. I have 'stolen' most of the below ideas from university and also a fantastic website, for which I searched for over an hour before stumbling across it, on teaching space to primary school students. However, my students enjoyed this lesson so much (ranking it 10/10 for fun, after being told to be honest and 10/10 is as fun as a rollercoaster) and, from what they produced and said, gained such in-depth knowledge and understandings from it that I thought it would be a shame not to share it.

I started the lesson by super enthusastically announcing, "Welcome to Astronaut Training Camp!" A child from another class walked in soon after, to which I announced, "An alien! Shoot him astronauts, what are you waiting for? No, wait! Wound him so we can take him back to Earth for experiments..." As you may be able to tell, I tried to completely immerse the children in the experience of being an astronaut. The smiles on their faces and hightened motivation encouraged me to keep the level of excitement involved in this lesson very high.

We started by watching an Xtranormal which outlines the history of the first humans on the moon. I told the students to listen carefully because, after all, "These are your ultimate role-models and the people whose footsteps you are following." I handed out A3 poster sheets, which students entitlted Astronaut Training Camp and recorded some facts them remembered from the movie (much more than I expected for a first viewing). We also discussed the USA versus Russia space race and Buzz Aldron's handover to Neil Armstrong to take the first ever step on the moon.

We then moved outside for a few activities. First, spaceship landing training. In groups, one child held a bucket, and the others tried to throw balls into it. Then, the centre child spun to simulate a planet moving around its axis and again children attempt to land balls into the bucket. The centre child started to rock the bucket back and forth while spinning to simulate craters. This demonstrated to the trainee astronauts the difficultly of a lunar landing.

Next, moving around on foreign planets. Students did long jumps, measured their distance then calculated (with calculators) how long their jumps would have been on other planets according to the differences in gravity. Students were assisted to make the connection between the size of the planets and their gravitational force, as the lesson just prior to this had covered the size of the solar system, with students creating a scale model. The recording sheet with the calculations was pasted onto the Astronaut training posters.

Finally, we learnt about what it is like to be an astronaut. This included reading an article on sleeping in space and an open class discussion on food (now dominated by choice as opposed to tubes) and urination (funny but gross). Students noted the most interesting information and what they thought they would need to remember in space on their Astronaut Training posters. In the dying minutes of the lesson, students were timed as they army crawled through the desks to practise moving around confined spaces. After all emerged, we graduated the astronauts. They bowed and we shook their hands as peers conveniently walked by and were requested to clap the inaugrual school astronauts.

What are some creative ways you teach science to your students?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna,
What a fantastic experience for your students! They will have learned so much from being active participants in such a fun day. I had an awesome science day with my class last year when we were looking into earthquakes - we simmered up some oatmeal to simulate the Earth layers, 'crust', and show plate movement. While it was heating up we hypothesised about what might happen - I was amazed at how much the students 'kind of' knew but weren't sure about - it turned out to be a fun session of thinking like a scientist, experimenting, and developing conclusions on our 'evidence'.