Come fly with me/Grades 7,8,9/Teachers guide

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Come Fly With Me! - Exploring science through aviation / aerospace concepts

David C. Housel and Doreen K.M. Housel, 1983.
Reproduced with permission


The history is star-studded: Joseph and Jacques Etienne; Orville and Wilbur Wright; Robert Goddard; Charles Lindberg; Eugene A. Sanger; August Martin; Yuri Gagarin; Alan Shepard; John Glenn; Valentina Tereshkova; Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldin and Michael Collins; Sally Ride; Guy Bluford, et al.

The technology is awesome: 13th Century Chinese rockets begin it all; 18th Century hot air balloons rise 900 meters and land 15 kilometers from their starting point; a twelve second plane flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C. in 1903 goes almost unnoticed; the first liquid propellant rocket is fired in Massachusetts in 1926 and, in 1927, the world celebrates the 3,610 mile journey across the Atlantic of the Spirit of St, Louis; a 184 pound satellite named Sputnik is launched into space in 1957; Apollo 11 lands on the moon with three Americans who walk its surface in 1969; Skylab 2 orbits for 672 hours in 1973; Americans hook up with the Russians in space during Apollo-Soyuz in 1975; Viking 1 and 2 land on Mars in 1976; in 1979, Voyager 1 and 2 fly by Jupiter; the Space Shuttle orbiter Columbia becomes the first reusable spacecraft in 1981; and, in 1983, Pioneer 10 passes the orbit of Neptune on its journey out of our solar system for worlds beyond.

The results are spectacular: two-thirds of the world's telephone communication and nearly all intercontinental television is now transmitted by spacecraft in synchronous orbit 22,300 miles above the equator; weather satellites track storms and give us readings on cloud cover, wind, temperature and pressure; our Landsat satellite provides images of the Earth, mapping the United States every eighteen days, detecting changes in surface features from urban sprawl to insect infestation, from deforestation to water pollution; Nimbus 7 spacecraft scans the oceans and provides invaluable navigational assistance; monitors are created for ambulance and intensive care unit patients, cardiac pacemakers and insulin pumps are manufactured, laser beam scalpels are produced 1arge1y because the space program has provided ups with the technology to do so.

The future is wide open: giant deployable space antennas; space platforms for telescopes, communication dishes and air pollution sensors; construction in space; the mining of resources on other planets; solar power space stations; and, most exciting perhaps, space colonies and cities.

The concepts of flying and of space can no longer be relegated to the realm of science fiction. They are, instead, essential components of our lives and an understanding of them will be even more vital to our students' lives. Students already know this and are highly motivated both by the inherent excitement of aerospace and the knowledge that it is truly meaningful to their futures.

In addition, aerospace concepts provide us with so many, as yet, unanswered questions. The need to know - the need to sort out what is so - is an innate human characteristic and the teacher can use that need well here. However, the need to know does not automatically include the way to know and, in this, the teacher's role is crucial. As good science teaching stresses the "way to know," so does this guide. Indeed, it is perhaps the basic foundation of its construction.

An Infusion Model

Teachers are inundated today with programs "vital" to their students and the Guide recognizes and appreciates the difficulty of adding another. Because of this, the activities are designed to be infused into the existing curricula in various ways. If, for example, a teacher is expected to teach astronomy, a number of activities from the Guide could be pulled and used as a unit. Or, if a teacher wished to do a unit on the human body, he might use some of the activities that deal with the body's needs in a foreign environment, such as space, to get to those concepts. If appropriate, the teacher can use material from all three units and put together a "Space Unit" that touches on all three sciences: life, physical and earth. Or, of course, those teachers who are restricted to teaching a physical, earth or life science class can use the activities appropriate to their field.


The Guide provides activities with the following overall goals in mind:

  • activities should provide students with aerospace experiences which will help them advance their science skills through the transition from concrete operations to abstract thinking;
  • activities should provide students with information about aviation and aerospace and guide them to people and places where they can gather additional information;
  • activities should provide students with experiences that will not dull their natural curiosity but will expand and enhance that curiosity;
  • activities should provide students with the opportunity to apply science concepts under consideration in meaningful and enlightening ways.

Conceptual Themes

Additional concepts also tend to find their way into the Guide. For example, the notion of interrelationships is considered in many of the activities. The importance of understanding the idea of systems and subsystems is stressed as is the importance of understanding the interrelationships between people and things and between people and people.

Also, there is a focus on change and adaptation in the experiences found in the Guide. It is significant that students know there are certain forces in the environment which act on things and that some of these forces are immutable. Many of these provide us with our 1aws of science. Other forces are alterable and knowing how to change them can provide students with more control over their environments. It is vital for students to understand both kinds of forces and to be able to differentiate between them.

Another idea found throughout the activities of the Guide is that science skills are life and life-time skills. Science is the very core of discovering what life is about and the activities foster skills that students will use, not only in the classroom, but in their various endeavors to ascertain what life is.

As a correlate to the above, the Guide deals with the importance of problem solving skills. It is significant in this day of rapidly changing technology, that students know how to learn and how to solve problems rather than learn only the "right" answers to specific questions posed by others. The Guide attempts to provide students with the chance to practice some creative problem solving techniques and to apply those techniques to meaningful situations.

Finally, it is important that young people never lose their sense of appreciation for the benefits of exploration. What is meant here is an appreciation, not only for the very real, practical and immediate benefits of exploration, but a cherishing of the need to know about what is unknown for the sake of the search itself. The innate need to know may be something that youngsters bring to our classrooms but it can be thwarted so easily by those who disallow dreaming in the classroom or by those who would temper children's curiosity with matters more practical and "down to earth." This guide fosters dreaming; equally important, it gives students some of the tools necessary to making dreams a reality.


The Guide consists of three aerospace science units for the junior high or middle school level related to Physical Science, Earth Science and Life Science. In addition, there is a section related to the Student Space Shuttle Involvement Program.

The Physical Science unit focuses on the forces of flight, the basic principles of flight and an understanding of the structure of planes and rockets. The Earth Science unit deals with an understanding of the Solar System, the importance of satellites and space probes in gaining environmental information, the interrelatedness of human beings with the environment and the science skills and techniques necessary to obtain and interpret scientific data. The life science unit focuses on an understanding of the body living in space and the conditions necessary for life, as we know it, in space. The Space Shuttle Student Involvement Program section details how the program works, offers a synopsis of past National Winners' projects and provides additional activities related to the Space Shuttle.

A Note on Process Skills

The process skills of science are the basic skills necessary to effectively inquire and are used by students to gather and analyze information in order to build conceptual understandings of their world. The various process skills noted in the activities are those deemed most important to the activity. Frequently, an activity will serve to develop more than one process skill.

The definitions for the process skills are given in the following:

  • Observing - Using the senses to gather data from one's environment.
  • Ordering - Placing objects, ideas or events in a logical series based on their characteristics.
  • Classifying - Placing objects, ideas or events in categories based on their characteristics.
  • Data Collection and Recording - Systematic methods of recording and displaying information concerning the environment.
  • Measuring - Using a system of references and standards in order to determine quantitative characteristics of objects or events.
  • Inferring - Interpreting data
  • Predicting - Forecasting of phenomena based on observation and inference.
  • Experimenting - Conducting investigations in a scientific manner in order to derive answers to specific questions.
  • Constructing and Interpreting Models - Representation of ideas.
  • Identification and Control of Variables - Identifying and manipu1ating parts of objects or events which, when changed, make a difference in how the object or event behaves.
  • Hypothesizing - Constructing questions which can be evaluated by observation, inference or experiment.

A Note on Concepts

It has been said that concepts are words or phrases, that is, 1abe1s, which represent the essential characteristics or attributes of a class of objects, events, situations or systems. An understanding of concepts, according to Jerome Bruner, 1.) reduces the complexity of the environment and therefore, 2.) reduces the necessity of constant learning.

It is important that students know and understand a number of aerospace concepts if they are to live comfortably and fully in a future that will expect them not only to apply many of the concepts in their daily lives, but will also ask them to analyze and evaluate the need for and uses of this "new" technology.

Students will have had an acquaintance with many of the aviation and space concepts, of course, without formal instruction in them. Indeed, students will come to aerospace activities with a variety of background experiences on which to draw. However, many of the concepts inherent in this area of science are not learned thoroughly or accurately when the student is left to figure out for himself or herself just what is involved in a given concept. Such concepts as flight, spacecraft, air resistance, relativity, hyperspeed, interaction, jet propulsion, or living in space should be part of the ongoing curriculum that is formally taught in schools.

One way to teach students various aerospace concepts is outlined in “Concept Attainment Strategies" found in the Teaching Strategies portion of the Introduction to this guide.

A Note on Problem Solving

Problem solving, or scientific thinking, is a complex ability made up of several identifiable elements: the ability to formulate problems, to analyze problems, to obtain information from a variety of sources, to organize data, to interpret data, to test hypotheses and to formulate conclusions.

Very little reliable evidence is available to indicate the extent to which the problem solving objective is provided for in day-to-day classroom activities. Still less evidence is available on the extent to which the objective is achieved with the young people who study science.

What we do know, and what the Guide attempts to develop is that if students are to be efficient at problem solving, teachers must, first, be aware of and use scientific reasoning in their own classrooms. Secondly, they must provide their students with many opportunities to practice the skills inherent in problem solving. If the teacher wishes to develop the ability to analyze problems, or interpret evidence, the skills must first be taught and then the teacher must provide classroom situations, day after day, when the pupil will have to use them. There is no easy way of teaching children to use the abilities of problem solving other than by setting classroom situations which call for their repetitive use.

Problem solving is a significant part of a youngster's education and it cannot be left to chance. Just as the understanding of concepts will be incomplete, at best, if left to informal instruction, the problem solving abilities of students will remain haphazard and inefficient if not formally instructed. This aerospace guide provides the opportunity, not only to develop process skills and conceptual knowledge of aerospace, but also provides for the application of those skills and concepts to problem solving situations.

For a check-list of teacher problem solving practices, see "An Inventory of Problem-Solving Practices" in the Teacher Strategies section of the Introduction.


In writing an aerospace guide, there ought to be a rationale for selection and inclusion of specific subject matter and method. Part of the rationale for selection of topics and strategies in this guide comes from what science and aerospace educators deem important to aerospace concept development. Another part comes from what we know about how children learn.

According to Piaget and other learning theorists, children have their own ways of examining their world and those ways can be described in somewhat defined stages. Teachers of junior high students, however, know that the range of abilities of students at the middle school levels covers a very wide span. Because the range may in fact reach from pre-primer to high school level, the authors have included information on the cognitive development of children from transition out of the Preoperational Stage, on their development in the Concrete Stage and on their development during the transition to the Formal Operations Stage. If the students in your classes are all primarily at level, you may wish to review Stage Three only.

Also, though in the past it has been generally accepted that children move to a level of abstract thinking at about the age of twelve, shortly before his death, Piaget proposed that the transition to formal operations may last until about the age of sixteen. This notion has been born out by data collected over the last decade.

Following is a detailed list of developmental behaviors taken from "CHANGE STAGES 1&2 AND BACKGROUND (A UNIT FOR TEACHERS) published by MacDonald Educational, London, England. It is included in the hope that teachers will be able to use the list to "spot" their own students' levels. Whether these students seem to be thinking on a higher or lower level, the list may aid the teacher in determining where these youngsters are developmentally and lessons can be modified to meet their needs. In addition, for those junior high students who may not be ready for some of the junior high materials, the teacher has the option of using the K - 6 materials of COME FLY WITH ME.


Stage 1 - Transition from Intuition to Concrete Operations

Grades K, 1, 2

The characteristics of thought among children differ in important respects from those of children over the age of about seven years. The young child's thought has been described as "intuitive" by Piaget; it is closely associated with physical action‘ and is dominated by immediate observation. Generally, young children are not able to think about or imagine the consequences of an action unless they have actually carried it out, nor are they yet likely to draw logical conclusions from their experiences. At this early stage the objectives are those concerned with active exploration of the immediate environment and the development of the ability to discuss and communicate effectively; they relate to the kind of activities that are appropriate to these young children, and which form an introduction to ways of exploring and ordering observations.

Attitudes, Interests and Aesthetic Awareness

  • Willingness to ask questions.
  • Willingness to handle both living and nonliving material.
  • Sensitivity to the need for giving proper care to living things.
  • Enjoyment in using all the senses for exploring and discriminating willingness to collect material for observation or investigation.

Observing, Exploring and Ordering Observations

  • Appreciation of the variety of living things and materials in the environment.
  • Awareness of changes which take place as time passes.
  • Recognition of common shapes--square, circle, triangle.
  • Recognition of regularity in patterns.
  • Ability to group things consistently according to chosen criteria.

Developing Basic Concepts and Logical Thinking

  • Awareness of meaning of words which describe various types of quantity.
  • Appreciation that things which are different may have common features.

Posing Questions and Devising Experiments or Investigations

  • Ability to find answers to simple problems by investigation
  • Ability to make comparisons in terms of one property or variable

Acquiring Knowledge and Learning Skills

  • Ability to discriminate between different materials.
  • Awareness of the characteristics of living things.
  • Awareness of properties which materials can have.
  • Ability to use displayed reference material for identifying living and nonliving things.


  • Ability to use new words appropriately.
  • Ability to record events in their sequences.
  • Ability to discuss and record impressions of living and nonliving things in the environment.
  • Ability to use representational symbols for recording in format charts or block graphs.

Appreciating Patterns and Relationships

  • Awareness of cause-effect relationships.

Interpreting Findings Critically

  • Awareness that the apparent size, shape and relationships of things depends on the position of the observer.
Concrete Operations. Early Stages.

Grades 1, 2, 3

In this stage, children are developing the ability to manipulate things mentally. At first this ability is limited to objects and materials that can be manipulated concretely, and even then only in a restricted way. The objectives here are concerned with developing these mental operations through exploration of concrete objects and materials--that is to say, objects and materials which, as physical things, have meaning for the child. Since older children, and even adults prefer an introduction to new ideas and problems through concrete example and physical exploration, these objectives are suitable for all children, whatever their age, who are being introduced to certain science activities for the first time.

Attitudes, Interests and Aesthetic Awareness

  • Desire to find out things for oneself.
  • Willing participation in group work.
  • Willing compliance with safety regulations in handling tools and equipment.
  • Appreciation of the need to learn the meaning of new words and to use them correctly.
  • Awareness that there are various ways of testing out ideas and making observations.
  • Interest in comparing and classifying living or nonliving things.
  • Enjoyment in comparing measurements with estimates.
  • Awareness that there are various ways of expressing results and observations.
  • Willingness to wait and to keep records in order to observe change in things.
  • Enjoyment in exploring the variety of living things in the environment.

Interest in discussing and comparing the aesthetic qualities of materials.

Observing, Exploring and Ordering Observations

  • Awareness of the structure and form of living things.
  • Awareness of change of living things and nonliving materials Recognition of the action of force.
  • Ability to group living and nonliving things by observable attributes.
  • Ability to distinguish regularity in events and motion

Developing Basic Concepts and Logical Thinking

Ability to predict the effect of certain changes through observation of similar changes. Formation of the notions of the horizontal and vertical. Development of concepts of conservation of length and substance. Awareness of the meaning of speed and of its relation to distance covered.

Posing Questions and Devising Experiments or Investigations

  • Appreciation of the need for measurement.
  • Awareness that more than one variable may be involved in a particular change.

Acquiring Knowledge and Learning Skills

  • Familiarity with sources of sound.
  • Awareness of sources of heat, light and electricity.
  • Knowledge that change can be produced in common substances.
  • Appreciation that ability to move or cause movement requires energy
  • Knowledge of differences in properties between and within common groups of materials.
  • Appreciation of man's use of other living things and their products
  • Awareness that man's way of life has changed through the ages.
  • Skill in manipulating tools and materials.
  • Development of techniques for handling living things correctly
  • Ability to use books for supplementing ideas or information


  • Ability to tabulate information and tables
  • Familiarity with names of living things and nonliving materials
  • Ability to record impressions by making models, painting and drawing

Appreciating Patterns and Relationships

  • Development of a concept of environment.
  • Formation of a broad idea of variation i
  • Awareness of seasonal changes in living
  • Awareness of differences in physical con parts of the Earth.

Interpreting Findings Critically

  • Appreciation that properties cf material

n living things. things. ditions between different

s influence their use

Stage 2 - Concrete Operations. Later Stage.

Grades 3, 4, 5

In this stage, a continuation of what Piaget calls the stage of Concrete Operations, the mental manipulations become more varied and powerful. The developing ability to handle variables--for example, in dealing with multiple classification--means that problems can be solved in more ordered and quantitative ways than was previously possible. The objectives begin to be more specific to the exploration of the scientific aspects of the environment rather than to general experience, as previously. These objectives are developments of those of Stage 1 and depend on them for a foundation. They are those thought of' as being appropriate for all children who have progressed from Stage 1 and not merely for nine-to-eleven-year-olds.

Attitudes, Interests and Aesthetic Awareness

  • Willingness to cooperate with others in science activities.
  • Willingness to observe objectively.
  • Appreciation of the reasons for safety regulations.
  • Enjoyment in examining ambiguity in the use of words Interest in choosing suitable means of expressing results and observations.
  • Willingness to assume responsibility for the proper care of living things.
  • Willingness to examine critically the results of their own and other's work.
  • Preference for putting ideas to test before accepting or rejecting them.
  • Appreciation that approximate methods of comparison may be more appropriate than careful measurement.
  • Enjoyment in developing methods for solving problems or testing ideas.
  • Appreciation of the part that aesthetic qualities of materials play in determining their use.
  • Interest in the way discoveries were made in the past.

Observing, Exploring and Ordering Observations

  • Awareness of internal structure in living and nonliving things
  • Ability to construct and use keys for identification.
  • Recognition of similar and congruent shapes.
  • Awareness of symmetry in shapes and structures.
  • Ability to classify living things and nonliving materials different ways.
  • Ability to visualize objects from different angles and the cross-sections.

in shape of

Developing Basic Concepts and Logical Thinking

  • Appreciation of measurement as division into regular parts and repeated comparison with a unit.
  • Appreciation that comparisons can be made indirectly by use of intermediary.
  • Development of concepts of conservation of weight, area and vol
  • Appreciation of weight as a downward force.
  • Understanding of the speed, time, distance relation.


Posing Questions and Devising Experiments or Investigations

  • Ability to frame questions likely to be answered through investigations.
  • Ability to investigate variables and to discover effective ones.
  • Appreciation of the need to control variables and use controls in investigations.
  • Ability to choose and use either arbitrary or standard units of measurement as appropriate.
  • Ability to select a suitable degree of approximation and work to
  • Ability to use representational models for investigating problems relationships,

Acquiring Knowledge and Learning Skills

  • Knowledge of conditions which promote change in nonliving materials.

living things and

  • Familiarity with a wide range of forces and of ways in which they can be changed.
  • Knowledge of sources and simple properties of common forms of energy.
  • Awareness of some discoveries and inventions by famous scientists.
  • Knowledge of ways to investigate and measure properties of living things and nonliving materials.
  • Knowledge of the origins of common materials.
  • Awareness of changes in the design of measuring instruments and tools during man's history.
  • Skill in devising and constructing simple apparatus.
  • Ability to select relevant information from books or other reference material.


  • Ability to
  • Ability to change
  • Ability to communicati
  • Ability to use non-representational symbols in plans, charts, etc interpret observations in terms of trends and rates of

use histograms and other simple graphical forms for ing data. construct models as a means of recording observations

Appreciating Patterns and Relationships

  • Awareness of sequences of change in natural phenomena.
  • Awareness of structure-function relationship in parts of living things.
  • Appreciation of interdependence among living things.
  • Awareness of the impact of man's activities on other living things.
  • Awareness of the changes in the physical environment brought about by man's activity.
  • Appreciation of the relationships of parts and wholes.

Interpreting Findings Critically

  • Appreciation of adaptation to environment.
  • Appreciation of how the form and structure of materials relate to their function and properties.
  • Awareness that many factors need to be considered when choosing a material for a particular use.
  • Recognition of the role of chance in making measurements and experiments.

Stage 3 - Transition to Stage of Abstract Thinking

Grades 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

This is the stage in which, for some children, the about abstractions is developing. When this development i

ability to think s

complete their thought patterns are capable of dealing with the possible and hypothetical, and are not tied to the concrete and to the here and now. It may take place between eleven and thirteen for some able children, for some children it may happen later, and for others it may never occur. The objectives of this stage are ones which involve development of ability to use hypothetical reasoning and to separate~ and combine variables in a systematic way. They are appropriate to those who have achieved most of the Stage 2 objectives and who now show signs of ability to manipulate, mentally, ideas and propositions.

Attitudes, Interest and Aesthetic Awareness

  • Acceptance of responsibility for their own and other's safety in experiments.
  • Preference for using words correctly.
  • Commitment to the idea of physical cause and effect.
  • Recognition of the need to standardize measurements.
  • Willingness to examine evidence critically.
  • Willingness to consider beforehand the usefulness of the results from a possible experiment. “
  • Preference for choosing the most appropriate means of expressing results or observations.
  • Recognition of the need to acquire new skills.
  • Willingness to consider the role of science in`everyday life.
  • Appreciation of the main principles in the care of living things.
  • Willingness to extend methods used in science activities to other fields of experience.

Observing, Exploring and Ordering Observations

  • Appreciation that classification criteria are arbitrary.
  • Ability to distinguish observations which are relevant to the solution of a problem from those which are not.
  • Ability to estimate the order of magnitude of physical quantities

Develoging Basic Concepts and Logical Thinking

  • Familiarity with relationships involving velocity, distance, time acceleration.
  • Ability to separate, exclude or combine variables in approaching problems.
  • Ability to formulate hypotheses not dependent upon direct observation.
  • Ability to extend reasoning beyond the actual to the possible.
  • Ability to distinguish a logically sound proof from others less sound.

Posing Questions and Devising Experiments or Investigations

  • Attempting to identify the essential steps in approaching a problem scientifically.
  • Ability to design experiments with effective controls for testing hypotheses.
  • Ability to visualize a hypothetical situation as a useful simplification of actual observations.
  • Ability to construct scale models for investigation and to appreciate implications of changing the scale.

Acquiring Knowledge and Learning Skills

  • Knowledge that chemical changes result form interaction.
  • Knowledge that energy can be stored and converted in various ways.
  • Awareness of the universal nature of gravity.
  • Knowledge of main constituents and variations in the composition of soil and of the earth.
  • Knowledge that properties of matter can be explained by reference to its particular nature.
  • Knowledge of certain properties of heat, light, sound, electrical, mechanical and chemical energy.
  • Knowledge of a wide range of living organisms.
  • Development of the concept of an internal environment.
  • Knowledge of the nature and variations in basic life processes.
  • Appreciation of levels of organization in living things.
  • Appreciation of the significance of the work and ideas of some famous scientists.
  • Ability to apply relevant knowledge without help of contextual cues.
  • Ability to use scientific equipment and instruments for extending the range of human senses.


  • Ability to select the graphical form most appropriate to the information being recorded.
  • Ability to use three-dimensional models or graphs for recording results.
  • Ability to deduce information from graphs: gradient, area, intercept.
  • Ability to use analogies to explain scientific ideas and theories.

Appreciating Patterns and Relationships

  • Recognition that the ratio of volume to surface area is significant.
  • Appreciation of the scale of the universe.
  • Understanding of the nature and significance of changes in living and nonliving things.
  • Recognition that energy has many forms and is conserved when it is changed from one form to another.
  • Recognition of man's impact on living things--conservation, change, control.
  • Appreciation of the social implications of man's changing use of materials, historical and contemporary.
  • Appreciation of the social implications of research in science.
  • Appreciation of the role of science in the changing pattern of provision for human needs.

Interpreting Findings Critically

  • Ability to draw from observations, conclusions that are unbiased by preconception.
  • Willingness to accept factual evidence despite perceptual contradictions.
  • Awareness that the degree of accuracy of measurements has to be taken into account when results are interpreted.
  • Awareness that unstated assumptions can affect conclusions drawn from argument or experimental results.
  • Appreciation of the need to integrate findings into a simplifying generalization.
  • Willingness to check that conclusions are consistent with further evidence.

These States chosen here conform to modern ideas about children's learning. They conveniently describe for us the mental development of children between the ages of five and fifteen years, but it must be remembered that ALTHOUGH CHILDREN GO THROUGH THESE STAGES IN THE SAME ORDER THEY DO NOT GO THROUGH THEM AT THE SAME RATES.

SOME: SOME: SOME: ALL: These group of < differing E

children achieve the Later Stages at an early age linger in the early Stages for quite a time.

never have the mental ability to develop to the later Stages

appear to be ragged in their movement from one Stage to another.

Stages, then, are not tied to chronological age, so in any o

children there will be, almost certainly, some children

Stages of mental development.


It is not enough that students are provided with activities or experiences in the classroom, no matter how engaging or educationally sound they may inherently be. Without the interaction between students and teachers who are prepared to listen, guide and help resolve discrepancies, there will be little learning at best and incorrect conceptualizing at worst.

The strategies used by the teacher are of utmost importance, then, to the student's acquisition of aerospace concepts. It is important to note that, though what a teacher knows about aerospace is important, what she or he knows about directing children's learning is equally important. Interaction with a teacher who assists students in thinking about what they have done, who helps them examine and evaluate the process under consideration and who shares the joy of discovery with them, will provide students with some of the most meaningful moments of their schooling.

Included in the following is a description of the three types of lessons to be found in the Guide, an outline of teacher verbal skills, a section on concept attainment strategies and a checklist of problem-solving practices teachers can use to help make the activities of this guide even more meaningful and useful for students.


Though there are many ways to present a lesson, most of the lessons in this guide will be presented in one of the following three teaching styles (adapted from MODELS OF TEACHING by Joyce & Weill): EXPOSITORY

Definition: This model involves the presentation by the teacher facts, concepts, generalizations, theories, skills, etc., which students are expected to learn. In general, it involves the teacher intermediary between students and the scholars in the field of science who generate conclusions in some form. This model is quite often justified as being most efficient in the teaching/learning time.

Purposes: To achieve content goals, to develop specific science related skills (metric system, use of equipment, graphing and other data collection skills, etc.) to gain knowledge of facts and explain phenomena.

Features: High teacher talk, large group instruction, little student interaction, frequent displays and exhibits or demonstrations.

Teaching Skills: Instructional procedures are characterized by such things as lecturing, recitation, use of audio-visual materials, students reading of textural materials and teacher demonstrations.


Definition: This approach involves channeling student's activities so that they proceed through some or all the inquiry elements relating to a problem which a scientist has already completed. The basic idea is to lead students through inquiry, enabling students to generate independently, conclusions, concepts, generalizations, etc., similar to those of the scholar. In general, the intellectual problems to be inquired into and the elements of the inquiry are selected by the teacher, thus the term "guided" discovery.

Purpose: To achieve process goals, to gain working understanding (as opposed to verbal understanding) of concepts, principles and generalizations and to produce understandings and users of scientific procedures.

Features: Frequent discussion sessions, laboratory work, student to student interaction.

Teaching Skills: Instructional procedures are characterized by selection of appropriate problems, motivating students, structuring activities, building students' actions and leading large group and small group discussions.


Definition: This model involves the teacher as a facilitator who assists, rather than directs, student inquiry into intellectual problems which, in many cases, the students themselves have selected. The problems and inquiries may or may not have been taken up previously by scholars. Thus, the approach is much more open-ended and the results less predictable than in the guided inquiry approach. The students choose their own problem, their own inquiry strategies, and rather than teach the students elements of a predetermined inquiry strategy, the teacher encourages student experimentation and recognizes possible failure in the use of particular strategies.

Purpose: To provide opportunities to identify problems and for the application of understanding concepts and problem solving ski11s in the investigation of those real world or contrived problems.

Features: Discussions of real world problems, individual and small group work, laboratory and out of school work.

Teaching Skills: Instructional skills are similar to those in guided inquiry. They require, however, more flexibility and responsiveness to students than any of the teaching models. A type of creative improvisation on the part of the teacher is required.

A model of the three strategies may look like the following:

Who determines the problem to be solved? Who determines the process to be used to solve the problem? Who actually solves the problem?
Expository Teacher Teacher Student
Guided Discovery Teacher Student Student
Open Discovery Student Student Student


(adapted from a doctoral dissertation by F. Stanley at Michigan State University)


If a goal of science is to further develop students' higher thought processes through discovery-inquiry techniques, the types of questions and problems students are presented with becomes a very important consideration. Recall and memory-type questions (lower-order questions)have a very definite place in all science areas but it is primarily the open-ended, divergent and probing questions (higher-order questions) which allow students the opportunity to use ideas rather than just remember them.

Higher-order questions are questions which require students to evaluate, infer, hypothesize, compare, apply a concept or principle, solve a problem, perceive cause and effect, project themselves into historical situations, and draw up new ideas.

Some Guidelines for Effective Questioning

  • Try to use more open-ended, divergent questions in contrast to convergent closed questions.

What did you observe?
Tell me about your kite.
What happened in your experiment?
What objects are in your system?


How far did your plane fly?
What shape is your kite?
Did you find out if you were right?
What objects are in your ...
Is the rudder in your system?

  • Try not to continually establish a T-C T-C T-C question and response pattern. It turns into an interrogation session not a discussion. The teacher is always forced to ask another question and the burden of thinking is on the teacher. Little child-child interaction will result. Questions which can be answered by a "yes" or "no" are directive and tend to limit possibilities for the children to express other ideas.

T - Did your rocket fly well?
C - No.
T - Did it fly?
C - Yes.
T - Did it fly far?
C - No.
T - How far did it fly?
C - Not far.

It would be better to say something like, "Tell me something about how your rocket worked after you changed it?

  • If you want to know something specific ask for an answer directly. Don't fish around and establish the mind-reading game. If you ask an open-ended question, accept the divergent responses you will get. Don't search for your preconceived answer.

T - What did you observe about the airport?
C - It has lots of planes.
T - Yes.
C - Some are commercial and some are private planes.
T - Fine.
C - They make a lot of noise.
T - I see.
C - Some have double wings.
T - Anything else?
C - Some have propellers.
T - I'm glad someone mentioned propellers. How many propellers are there on a plane?
C - 3.
T - Really?
C - 4.
C - 2.
T - What do you think?
C - I wasn't looking at the propellers!

Be careful not to use too many fill-in-the-blank type questions. It promotes guessing for the right answer.

T - This part of the plane is aluminum and _______________.

Avoid making statements and putting them in the form of a question.

T - The rockets all have the same essential shape, don't they?


  • Teachers need to develop a repertoire of responses to the comments and responses children make. Initially children need great deal of praise and encouragement. No one response should be used for every occasion. As the teacher and children continue to work with the materials, the teacher should try to make more neutral or fewer responses to the children's comments in order promote more interaction between the children.

Examples of responses

I see.
That's an interesting idea.
Thank you.
Repeat answer
What evidence do you have that...
Can you show us?
Do you agree with John's idea?
How could we find out?
That's a possibility.
I don't agree.

  • Any distinct pattern you may establish may be expected by a child and any deviation from that pattern may be misunderstood as a negative response.

T - Tell me about this object? (rocket)
C - It's round.
T - Good.
C - It's tall.
T - Good.
C - It has two engines on it.
T - Good.
C - It has two stages.
T - It has two stages.
C - Well, maybe it has three.

  • Be aware of the positive-negative type response you can make.

C - It will fly.
T - Yes, but...

  • Be aware of responses made by children that may be a clue to the teacher that she has been giving too many or too much reinforcement or positive approval.

Child answers questions in question form. Example: C - It is going to crash?

Child looks at teacher for approving eye. (The teacher should try to focus her attention on the object itself, instead of the child's face.)


  • Wait time after a teacher question - If the students are being required to think more because of the use of higher order questions, the period of time that a teacher should wait for students to construct a response to a question should increase.

If for example, more than one pattern can be imposed on a heap of objects, the student requires more time to process alternatives and decide which orderings are meaningful for him or her at that point in time.

Ask a question and follow it by silence. How long can you wait before you find it uncomfortable for you? Practice that skill.

Many children have learned to out-wait the teacher because sometimes teachers answer their own question for the children.

T - What shape is your object?
C - No response
T - It's kind of like a bird, isn't it?
C - Yup.

  • Wait time before a teacher response - Research shows that teachers tend to wait less than a second after a question is asked by them or a response is given to their question before the teacher responds again. The period of time a teacher waits before replying to a student response should increase in order to promote higher level thinking on the student's part. Also, since the student may "open" with a variety of potentially acceptable responses, the teacher needs to hear what the student really said. If the teacher shifts the ground for discourse with his/her next response, then the student often learns to monitor the teacher rather than the system of objects.


In general you should hear yourself asking these types of questions:

How well did we do this?
Where can we get information?
What is the problem?
What would happen if ....
How are they alike? Different?
Was our plan good?
What can we do to make it better?
Where can you find....
How could you make a .....
Can you demonstrate .....

If your children are using higher order thinking skills, you should hear these kinds of questions from them:

If that's true, why .....
How could that happen?
Where did you find that information?
How do you know that's true?
I understand that but, why ....
Can we try that again?


(adapted from works of L. Porter for the Berkley Michigan school system)

Concepts are words or phrases that define certain classes of objects, events, situations, or systems. For example, one class or category of objects is TRIANGLE: closed figures that have three straight sides forming three angles are TRIANGLES. I have a concept of TRIANGLE if, whenever I come across a three-sided, closed figure whose sides are made up of straight lines (no matter what color), I mentally say, "TRIANGLE."

Conceptual understandings are rather nice things to have because concept understanding:

  • reduces the complexity of the environment (I can "store" all those various sizes and colors of three-sided, closed figures, under TRIANGLE)
  • reduces the necessity of constant learning (If I run into a blue one, I‘ll still know it‘s a TRIANGLE).

When students understand a given concept, they are able to show us their understanding in various ways. If students have a concept of SPACECRAFT, students can:

  • Offer a lucid definition of the concept by listing (or identifying in some way) all the critical attributes that collectively define the concept (parroting back a textbook definition doesn't necessarily tell us anything. For example, a student might say, "A spacecraft is a device that can have people in it or no people in it. What makes it a spacecraft is that it is made (1) to orbit the earth or (2) to fly outside the earth's atmosphere."
  • Identify an example of the concept and explain why this item is an example. For instance, a student might offer, "The Space Shuttle is a spacecraft because it (1) orbits the earth with a crew of two to six people. Even if it could orbit without people aboard it would still be a spacecraft because it orbits the earth."
  • Identify non-examples of the concept and explain why they are non-examples. Here a student might say, "A cruise missile is not a spacecraft. It can fly very far and very high but (1) it doesn't have enough energy to get into orbit or (2) the structural stability to withstand the lack of air pressure out of the atmosphere."
  • Identify those attributes that are critical to the concept from those that are true about the concept but are incidental to a definition of the concept. For example, a student might say, "The Space Shuttle is shaped like a rocket and it has wings which let it glide back to earth but that's not important to deciding whether it's a spacecraft or not."


In order for a child to arrive at an understanding of a concept, it is essential that s/he work through certain steps; for example, in developing a concept of airplane the child:

  • experiences an example of the concept and is cognizant of the attributes of this particular example (jet airplane and its attributes)
  • hears the concept label (the word) for this example ("airplane“)
  • experiences other, somewhat dissimilar, examples (propeller, float, glider, etc.) of the concept and is cognizant of their attributes
  • hears the same concept label applied to these examples (airplane)
  • "sorts out" the critical attributes from the incidental ones in order to discern those that are essential to a definition of the concept (throws out "wheels," "fuel tank," "engine," while keeping "wing," "stabilizer," "fuselage," and such.) `
  • organizes the language necessary to communicate a lucid definition (if language ability allows) of the concept. The definition ought to include the critical attributes of the concept.


It is clear that some concepts are learned, or, at least, partly learned, through random experience ("family," for example). Formal schooling, then, provides instruction designed to broaden, to make more complete, the students' understanding of the concept until it is a rich, full understanding.

Other concepts are generally introduced in a formal educational setting (triangle, square, goods and services, economic interdependence, technology). It is formal education that build students' understandings of these kinds of concepts and one of the most effective and most efficient strategies for teaching to an understanding of a specific concept is Hilda Taba's CONCEPT ATTAINMENT strategy.

Taba's strategy is an instructional strategy that reflects the naturally occurring mental processes theorized to account for how we build conceptual understandings. It is a strategy designed to teach specific concepts; it is a strategy that provides students with an opportunity to "discover" the critical attributes of the concept, to "discover" the concept's meaning.

Essentially, Taba's CONCEPT ATTAINMENT strategy has eight steps:

  • The first step requires the teacher to provide the concept label indicating that the lesson's objective is to learn the concept's definition. “At the end of this lesson you will be able to tell me what a spacecraft is. You'll be able to define it and/or give me examples of spacecraft and you will have discovered for yourselves the meaning of spacecraft; I won't have to give you a dictionary definition because you'll be able to give me yours."

  • The second step requires the teacher to provide examp1es of the concept and for each example . . .
    Ask focused questions concerning each of the examples. For example "What does this craft do?" "How far from the earth's atmosphere can this craft fly?" Ask similar questions about each example in order for students to note what is the same about all the examples of spacecraft that you present.
  • Provide non-examples of the concept and for each non-example. Ask the same focused questions in order for students to note how the non-examples are different from the examples.
  • Check for understanding by requesting that students provide additional examples of the concept.
  • Check for understanding by requesting that students 1ist the critica1 attribute(s) of the concept.
  • Provide opportunities for students to use their new learning in a variety of ways in order to retain their understanding of the concept.

BUT FIRST . . . Before a teacher can utilize the concept attainment strategy, s/he needs to have identified the CRITICAL ATTRIBUTES OF THE CONCEPT about to be taught. It is not always easy, but it is essential that the teacher have firmly in mind a lucid definition of the concept, the critical attributes of the concept that form the definition, and mental images of examples of the concept.

Teachers can use the concept attainment strategy at those points in a unit where some common word meanings are necessary for a clear understanding (a meaningful understanding) of the objects, behaviors, events, or situations that are being studied. For example, if students are involved in a study of aerospace, there are some basic terms that must be understood before real, meaningful comprehension of the unit can take place - "action/reaction," "micro-gravity," "exploration," "interpreting data," come to mind. Quick verbal definitions from the teacher, written textbook or dictionary definitions WILL NOT insure meaningful understanding of concepts such as these. No one can guarantee that the concept attainment strategy will result in perfect understanding either, but the probability that students will develop real understanding of concepts is considerably increased.



inventory of problem-solving practices 1
inventory of problem-solving practices 2
inventory of problem-solving practices 3

An inventory of problem-solving practices can be used by a teacher in making an appraisal of the extent to which he or she provides for the suggested item under the various elements in problem solving. By making a self~analysis of practices in regard to this objective, teachers should be able to locate their strengths and weaknesses. This would provide a reliable basis for improving classroom practices

Inventory of Problem-Solving Practices

Directions: Check your response to each of the proper space at the right.


To what extent do you:

  • help pupils sense situations involving personal and social problems?
  • help pupils recognize specific problems in these situations? '
  • help pupils in isolating the single major idea of a problem?
  • help pupils state problems as definite and concise questions?
  • help pupils pick out and define the key words as a means or getting a better understanding of the problem?
  • help pupils evaluate problems in terms of personal and social needs?
  • help pupils to be aware of the exact meaning of word-groups and shades of meaning of words in problems involving the expression of ideas?
  • present overview lessons to raise significant problems?
  • permit pupils to discuss possible problems for study?
  • encourage personal interviews about problems of individual interest?


To what extent do you:

  • provide a wide variety of sources of information?
  • help pupils develop skill in using reference sources?
  • help pupils develop skill in note taking?
  • help pupils develop skill in using aids in books?
  • help pupils evaluate information pertinent to the problem?
  • provide laboratory demonstrations for collecting evidence on a problem?
  • help pupils to develop skill in interviewing to secure evidence on a problem?
  • provide controlled experiments for collecting evidence on a problem?
  • provide for using the resources of the community in securing evidence on a problem?
  • provide for using visual aids in securing evidence on a problem?
  • evaluate the pupils' ability for collecting evidence on a problem as carefully as you evaluate their knowledge of facts?


To what extent do you:

  • help pupils develop skill in arranging data?
  • help pupils develop skill in making graphs of data?
  • help pupils make use of deductive reasoning in areas best suited?
  • provide opportunities for pupils to make summaries of data?
  • help pupils distinguish relevant from irrelevant data?
  • provide opportunity for pupils to make outlines of data?
  • evaluate the pupil‘s ability to organize evidence as carefully as you evaluate their knowledge of facts?


To what extent do you:

  • help pupils select the important ideas related to the problem?
  • help pupils identify the different relationships which may exist between the important ideas?
  • help pupils see the consistencies and weaknesses in data?
  • help pupils state relationships as generalizations which may serve as hypotheses?
  • evaluate the pupils' ability for interpreting evidence as carefully as you evaluate their knowledge of fact?


To what extent do you:

  • help pupils judge the significance or pertinence of data?
  • help pupils check hypotheses with recognized authorities?
  • help pupils make inferences from facts and observations?
  • help pupils devise controlled experiments suitable for testing hypotheses?
  • help pupils recognize and formulate assumptions basic to a given hypothesis?
  • help pupils recheck data for possible errors in interpretation?
  • evaluate the pupils' ability for selecting and testing hypotheses as carefully as you evaluate their knowledge of facts?


To what what extent do you:

  • help pupils formulate conclusions on the basis of tested evidence?
  • help pupils evaluate their conclusions in the light of the assumptions they set up for the problem?
  • help pupils apply their conclusions to new situations?
  • evaluate pupils' ability to formulate conclusions as carefully as you evaluate their knowledge of facts?