Come fly with me/K-6/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
Doreen K.M. Housel and David C. Housel 1983


In addition to the wealth of materials and resources available to teachers in aerospace education, this guide provides an organized group of ACTIVITIES which have clear objectives for each grade level, related to a theme and fit easily into the existing curriculum framework and educational goals.

Conceptual Framework

From Daedalus, to da Vinci, to Montgolfier; from Lilienthal to the Wright Brothers, Lindbergh and Earhart; from Gagarin and Shepard to Armstrong and Lousma, human beings have dreamed of flight. That dream is now a powerful reality but what is important to education is what people have done to achieve that dream, not only that it has been done. It is the process of making dreams a reality, then, that is the business of education.

There is, in addition, an innate human quality which seems to demand that we ask, "What is so?" and that we attempt to make sense out of things which seem not to make sense. Children come to us with that quality. However, even though the wish to inquire is innate, the ability to do so efficiently is learned and is properly and, we might even say, vitality, another responsibility of modern education.

Since this ability to inquire intelligently, is so important and since science, by its very nature, specifically involves the whole process of inquiry, this Guide has been developed to assist you in your day to day attempt to provide students with what is meaningful and important to their growth, both in a cognitive and in an affective way.

There are a number of concepts that can be used to teach the inquiry process but perhaps none so highly visibly or highly motivational as the concepts of flying and of space travel. Children know of airplanes and rockets and space vehicles. These are not the stuff of far-fetched dreamers any longer, but are realities in our lifetimes. How it all works, how they can become a part of it and what's going to happen next are some of the questions and concerns children already have. There is very little need to convince students that this is an exciting subject. Nor is it difficult for them to grasp how vital an understanding of aviation and space is to their futures.

Not only is aerospace education motivational but, as Robert Jones pointed out in an article on aerospace education, today's curriculums are," ... beset with 'negative' influences. (Though important parts of the curriculum) drug education, environmental education, economic education ... are in operation to combat negative societal factors, aerospace education ... can and should be a celebrative experience." It was with that happy notion in mind that this curriculum was designed.

An Infusion Model

We would like you to know, too, that we are aware that when additional courses of study are added to an already crowded curriculum, something has to be set aside. The activities in this guide have been designed to be infused into an existing curricula, not to be added. A wealth of materials and resources have been available to teachers in aerospace education for some time so that teachers could integrate aviation and space concepts into their teaching. What has been missing is an organized group of ACTIVITIES which have clear objectives for each grade level, activities which are related to a theme that will fit easily into the existing goals of most teachers.


This guide provides some of those activities and has been written with the following overall goals in mind:

  • activities should provide students with experiences which will help them advance from basic concrete thinking skills to more advanced abstract thinking skills
  • 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 which will not dull their natural curiosity but which will expand and enhance that curiosity.

Conceptual Themes

In addition to these goals, a number of important concepts tend to weave their way through the fabric of the guide. You will find, for example, that we feel children ought to understand the idea of interrelationship, the importance of the parts to the whole, not only in the systems and sub systems of "things" but in the interrelationships between people and things and between people and people.

There is a focus on change and adaptability in the activities of the guide. It is important that students understand that there are forces in the environment which act on things and that they can change many of those forces. In so doing, they can change their environment or, equally important, the students can change themselves and adapt to their environment.

Another notion fostered throughout the activities is that science skills are life and life-time skills and that science and social science skills are the core of the art of discovering about life. Other skills measure life or they may describe life, but the sciences are life. There should be little difficulty then, in relating these activities to the rest of the teacher's curriculum and, through the EXTENSIONS, some ways to do this are suggested.

Finally, it is important that children develop a sense of appreciation for the benefits of exploration. We mean here an appreciation for the process of searching for answers and the products of that search. Appreciation can only come when one truly knows a thing in both a cognitive and in an affective way; exploration allows us that knowledge and thereby fosters that appreciation.

Structure and Content

The guide consists of units for kindergarten through sixth grade organized around a central theme at each grade level. The themes follow a sequence from grade to grade. Beginning with the introduction of basic inquiry process skills in kindergarten, the guide moves through succeedingly more complex activities dealing with theory of flight, flight in the atmosphere, the Earth from Space, the exploration of the Solar System, and culminates, at the sixth grade, with units on futurism and living in space.

A Note on Process Skills

The process skills of science are the skills necessary for effective inquiry and are used by children to gather information, thus enabling them to build concepts about the world in which they live. Through this skill development, children build proficiency in gathering and evaluating information while learning concepts and generalizing about what they learn.

Once a skill level has been developed, it can be used as needed as the child experiences new activities. These skills will continue to be emphasized at succeeding grade levels, but in increasingly more complex situations. This strengthens children's abilities to apply the skill and helps them develop readiness for the more complex process skills. Just as development from simple to complex is evident in skill sequence, skill interrelatedness is evident in scope. A particular activity in these aerospace lessons will frequently serve for development of more than one process skill.

Definitions of Process Skills

  • 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 event in categories based on their characteristics.
  • Data collecting 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 manipulating 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.

Sequence and Time Frame

The sequence and the choice of activities allows the teacher flexibility in the time of year the units are begun and also provides for the use of lessons from lower levels to be used as review for higher level grades. The activities and sequence also allow a teacher to use lower level activities, for students without prior aerospace education, to cover concepts not previously learned. In addition, the lessons are designed to fit into an existing curriculum which already includes process learning skills development or the activities may be used to provide process skills in a curriculum which has made little or no provision for their development.

The units are designed to be covered in the following time frames for each grade:

K - Two weeks
1 - Three weeks
2 - Three weeks
3 - Four weeks
4 - Four weeks
5 - Four weeks
6 - Four weeks

The specific concepts and process skills are detailed in each lesson throughout the Guide. The following is a synopsis of the important concepts and process skills found at each grade level.



Concepts and processes emphasized in this unit: color, shape, texture sound, size, quantity, position, object.

The unit for kindergarten offers a wide variety of activities and experiences which emphasize process skills development. Most of the activities are designed to explore "What Flies?" Children learn to observe, discriminate, and describe, using objects and organisms in the classroom and outdoors. These experiences help them develop language and participation skills and contribute to their growing understanding of science process skills including observing, ordering, classifying, collecting and recording data using pictographs, measuring with non-standard units, inferring, and space/time relationships.

Level 1 - WAY UP HIGH

Concepts and processes emphasized in this unit: force, wind, gravity, properties of air, systems, variables, evidence.

The children handle, observe and describe objects that fly. They learn that flying things are affected by the forces of wind and gravity and learn to describe evidence of these forces acting on objects. Students learn that objects can change and they learn that there are ways to recognize evidence of change. Observation and comparison lead to the concept of inference and prediction. As the children investigate the properties of various flying things they realize that most are systems of things working together to create something that can fly.


Concepts systems, and processes emphasized in this unit: interaction, sub systems, motion, evidence of interaction, energy and enery transfer.

The concept of energy transfer to create motion, as well as the concept that related objects or parts comprise the sub system of a system, are introduced. Students examine a variety of flying things including hot air balloons, paper and rubber-band airplanes. The students' investigations of the parts of systems leads to the ability to develop operational definitions. The airport and its working as a system is explored.

Level 3 - BIRDS FLY - WHY CAN'T I?

Concepts and processes emphasized in this unit: lift, drag, thrust, gravity, action-reaction, variables and control of variables.

Travel within the atmosphere is explored and students are introduced to the theory of flight including Bernoulli's principle. The concept of power for aircraft is introduced through activities dealing with propellers, jets and rockets. The effects of weather as a force which acts on aircraft are explored and the effects of the control surfaces on an aircraft are further investigated.


Concepts and processes emphasized in this unit: relative position, relative motion, polar coordinates, grids and coordinates, solar system.

The ideas and techniques developed in this unit are related to concepts of astronomy and space science. The concepts of coordinates are used to explore Landsat satellite photographs as well as false-color imagery. Students see that reference to different objects and coordinate systems leads to different descriptions of position and motion. Children also learn to use a variety of models to describe both the position and the motion of objects in the solar system and on earth.


Concepts and processes emphasized in this unit: exploration, evidence inference, interpreting data, weightlessness, orbit, atmospheric pressure, magnetic field.

The primary focus of this unit is an inquiry into the needs of humans flying in space especially related to their physical environment. Children‘s investigations into the findings of solar system exploration by astronauts and robot satellites are used to foster an understanding of the temporariness of scientific information and the role of accurate observation and interpretation of data in inquiry.


Concepts and processes emphasized in this unit: reduced gravity, waste management, heat, relativity, hyper speed, futurizing, scientific theory, hypothesizing.

The children explore the needs of humans living in space and form their own theories as to the future of space, space stations and the colonization of other planets. Investigation of the Space Shuttle flights leads to a better understanding of the benefits of space exploration and the role of problem solving in scientific investigation.


In building an aerospace guide, there ought to be a rationale for the selection and grade placement of subject matter. Part of the rationale for this Guide is derived from what science and aerospace educators deem important to aerospace science concept development. These concepts have been considered and have been ordered in terms of difficulty: Things that fly; Air and its properties; Weather and flying; Facts of flight; Airplanes, jets and rockets; Spacecraft; The Solar System; Humans traveling in space; Humans living in space.

In addition, part of the rationale is derived from what we know about how children learn. If learning theorists are correct, children have their own ways of looking at things and those ways can be delineated in somewhat definable stages. Added to that, children change those ways of looking at the world and develop higher level thinking patterns by active interaction with their world. If this aerospace guide is to improve a child's way of thinking about things, it is important to know something about the normal course of intellectual development. With an understanding of the characteristics of the intuitive stage, content was selected for the primary level that should help the child move from intuitive thought to the more logical thought that appears in the stage of concrete operations. Appreciating how a child thinks at the stage of concrete operations, material was selected for the middle grades that would strengthen children's logical operations and help them move to the onset of propositional thinking.

Included is a detailed list of developmental behaviors taken from, Change Stages 1 & 2 and Background For Teachers published by Macdonald Educational, London, England.

It is included, not only to give teachers a better understanding of the foundation for selection of activities, concepts and skills but 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 children are developmentally and more appropriate lessons in the guide can be found for them.


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, the young child is not able to think about or imagine the consequences of an action unless she/he has actually carried it out, nor is she/he yet likely to draw logical conclusions from his or her experiences. At this early stage the objectives are those concerned with active exploration of the immediate environment and the development of ability to discuss and communicate effectively; they relate to the kinds 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 non-living 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 or given 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 to Answer Them

  • 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 non-living things.


  • Ability to use new words appropriately.
  • Ability to record events in their sequences.
  • Ability to discuss and record impressions of living and non-living things in the environment.
  • Ability to use representational symbols for recording information on 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 depend 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 non-living things
  • Enjoyment in comparing measurements with estimates.
  • Awareness that there are various ways of expressing results and observations.
  • Willingness to wait and keep records in order to observe change in things.
  • Enjoyment in exploring the variety of living tings in the environment.
  • Interest in discussing and comparing the aethetic qualities of materials.

Observing, Exploring and Ordering Observations

  • Awareness of the structure and form of living things.
  • Awareness of change of living things and non-living materials.
  • Recognition of the action of force.
  • Ability to group living and non-living 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 the 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 to Answer Them

  • 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 non-living 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 in living things.
  • Awareness of seasonal change in living things.
  • Awareness of differences in physical conditions between different part of the Earth.

Interpreting Findings Critically

  • Appreciation that properties of materials influence their use.

Stage 2 - Concrete Operations - Later Stages (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 non-living 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 non-living materials in different ways.
  • Ability to visualize objects from different angles and the shape of cross-sections.

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 an intermediary.
  • Development of concepts of conservation of weight, area and volume
  • Appreciation of weight as a downward force.
  • Understanding of the speed, time, distance relation.

Posing Questions and Devising Experiments or Investigations to Answer Them

  • 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 it.
  • Ability to use representational models for investigating problems or relationships.

Acquiring Knowledge and Learning Skills

  • Knowledge of conditions which promote changes in living things and non-living materials.
  • 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 non-living 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 use non-representational symbols in plans, charts, etc.
  • Ability to interpret observations in terms of trends and rates of change.
  • Ability to use histograms and other simple graphical forms for communicating data.
  • Ability to 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 material to their function and properties.
  • Awareness that many factors need to be considered when a material for a particular use.
  • Recognition of the role of chance in making measurement experiments.

Stage 3 - Transition to Stage of Abstract Thinking (Grades 5, 6, 7)

This is the stage in which, for some children, the ability to think about abstractions is developing. When this development is 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 state 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.

Developing 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 to Answer Them

  • 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 from 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 non-living 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 thing--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 Stages 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 thirteen 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: children achieve the later Stages at an early age.

SOME: linger in the early Stages for quite a time

SOME: never have the mental ability to develop to the later Stages.

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

These Stages, then, are not tied to chronological age, so in any one group of children there will be, almost certainly, some children at differing Stages of mental development.


As was mentioned in "Helping Children Learn," learning theorists generally agree that children need active interaction with their real world--they need "stuff" to work with in order to relate new concepts to their own lives. We know, however, that it is not enough for them to have objects to work with nor is it enough that they do activities. What students also need is interaction with a teacher who can help them take the time to think about what they have done, to help them examine the process they went through, to evaluate that process with them, and to have fun with them while they do those things.

The way a teacher interacts with children during and following a lesson will make a difference in not only cognitive learning but in the child‘s attitude toward the process of knowing. The spirit with which a teacher approaches these aerospace activities is as important, then, as are the activities themselves.

Included in the following is a description of the three types of lessons you will find in this guide and an outline of teacher verbal skills that will help to make the lessons even more meaningful and useful for the children.


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 & Weil:


Definition: This model involves the presentation by the teacher of the facts, concepts, generalizations, theories, skills, etc., which students are expected to learn. In general, it involves the teacher as an intermediary between scholars or the field of science such as a biologist who generates 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, student 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 users and understandings 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 student's 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 skills 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


(The following were adapted from a doctoral dissertation by F. Staley at Arizona 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. The following are some guidelines for effective questioning:

Open-ended divergent questions

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

  • What did you observe?. . . . . . .vs. . . . . . How far did your plane fly?
  • Tell me about your kite. . . . . .vs. . . . . . What shape is your kite?
  • What happened in your experiment?. . . . . vs. . . . . . Did you find out if you were right?
  • What objects are in your system?. . . . . .vs. . . . . . Is there a rudder in your system?

Avoid Teacher-Child questions response pattern

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. For example:

T - What color is your balloon?
C - Yellow.
T - Is it hard?
C - No.
T - Is it soft?
C - Yes.

It would have been better to say something like, "Tell me something about Soft your balloon."

Ask something specific

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 or your preconceived answer. For example:

T - What did you observe about the airport?
C - It has lots of planes.
E - Yes.
C - Some are big and some are little.
T - I see.
C - They make noise.
T - Fine.
C - They have wings.
T - How many wings?
C - Two.
T - Hmm.
C - They have wheels.
T - How many?
C - Two, too.
T - Anything else?
C - They have propellers.
T - I'm glad someone mentioned propellers. How many propellers are there?
C - 3.
T - Really?
C - 4.
T - What do you think?
C - I wasn't looking at the propellers.

Not too many fill-in-the-blank questions

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

T - This part of the rocket is big and ____________.

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

T - The balloons are all the same color, aren't they?


Responses to comments

Teachers need to develop a repertoire of responses to the comments and responses children make. Initially children need a 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 to 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 Jon's idea?
How could we find out?
That's a possibility.
I don't agree.

Variety of responses

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. For example:

T - Tell me about this object?
C - It's round.
T - Good.
C - It's got two engines.
T - Good.
C - It's shiny.
T - It's shiny.
C - Well, not exactly.


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

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

Reinforcement clues

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. For example:

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

Child looks at teacher for approving eye. If this happens, the teacher should try to focus her attention on the object itself, instead of the face of the child.


Wait time after a teacher question. . .

If 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 (like buttons) 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 questions and do all the thinking for the children. For example:

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

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 students part. In addition, since the student may "open" with a variety of potentially acceptable responses (by virtue of the fact that there are more acceptable alternatives, the teacher needs to hear what the student really said. If the teacher shifts the grounds for discourse with his or her next response, then the student often learns to monitor the teacher rather than the system of objects (For example: C - "It‘s skinnier" T - "You mean tall." The student may not have meant that at all but the child may now buy into what the teacher responded with rather than what the student actually meant.)


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

"How well did we do this?"
"Was our plan good? what can we do to make it better?"
"where can we get information?"
"what is there about that makes you think ?"
"How are they alike? How are they different?"
"What is the problem?"
"What would happen if ?"
"Where could you find ?"
"How could you make a ?"
Do you think we can demonstrate __________?"

If your children are using higher order thinking skills, you should hear these kinds of questions from them:
"If that's true, why ?"
"I understand that but, why ?"
"How could that happen?"
"Where did you find that information?"
"How do you know that's true?"
"Can we try that again?"