Studying space and astronomy not only gets students interested in space. It can enhance your ability to get reading and math into lessons per Common Core requirements. Make a teachable moment surrounding the anniversary of America's first space walk in June. Students can imagine the future, do some research and make a case for where we will be in another 50 years.
I've put together a few lesson ideas to mark the occasion:
- Few things get students’ interest as much as the future, especially when there can't be a wrong answer. I may even place their ideas in a time capsule and keep it on campus until the day they return. If you pursue that idea, follow this preservation advisory to bury it. I would prefer to leave the time capsule in the school library where students can check on its contents in future years. Another option is having students send a time capsule to themselves in the future. You need to check what is going into the capsule, but it’s more fun for the students and easier for them to access in the years ahead.
- Another lesson I like to use to promote thinking is Space News. It offers students the opportunity to read interesting and factual stories and use them as a starting place for science fiction writing.
- Using images of space often gets students thinking about space travel. This introduces the possibility of having students build rockets and fly them as a ground crew measures the altitude they reach. Watching the movie October Sky might inspire them too. I also like to have students study the Constellations -- both the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere.
- Finally, I have asked students to write and produce their own play about space. It motivates them to solve the problems of how to make the audience believe they are in space. The sets could include fairly accurate drawings of the stars.
Regardless of what method you use, the theme of space and astronomy offers valuable lessons for students -- lessons that can motivate them and make science, history, language arts and math more interesting and meaningful. The following resources provide additional ideas and information.
Remote sensing can be useful in studying numerous disciplines, from biology to ecology to geography. The material in Earth from Space can be used to satisfy the requirements of many subjects.
- Space and Flight from PBS’ Nova series offers high interest stories.
- Daily Science Fiction Short Stories allows the students to read and get ideas for their own creations.
- At MyStoryPage you can submit good science fiction short stories. This is competitive, but worth a try.
- Astroviewer provides a free map of the sky. This is an intriguing site students might want to explore on their own.
Alan Haskvitz teaches at Suzanne Middle School in Walnut, California, and makes staff development presentations nationwide. He serves as an educational consultant, curriculum developer and author.