Space Lesson Plans
Lesson Plans here were developed over the years I have served as a JPL Solar System Ambassador and as a 5th grade teacher. Teachers can e-mail lessons in to Dr. Brown at email@example.com to be posted here.
Suitable for students in grades 3 - 8.
Sample: Voyager Return Mission Simulation
Lesson Plan for Implementing NETS•S—Template I
(More Directed Learning Activities) Template with guiding questions
Teacher(s) Name Don W. Brown, D.Ed. Position Teacher School/District Meadowview Elementary, Bethel Public Schools E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Phone 503-713-8791 Grade Level(s) K-5 Content Area Space Science Time line 10 40-minute sessions over two weeks, including time for assessment.
Standards (What do you want students to know and be able to do? What knowledge, skills, and strategies do you expect students to gain? Are there connections to other curriculum areas and subject area benchmarks? ) Content Standards ODE 4.1E.1 Identify properties, uses, and availability of Earth materials. ODE 4.3S.2 Summarize the results from a scientific investigation and use the results to respond to the question being tested. NETS*S Standards: 3d. process data and report results., 2d. contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems.
Overview (a short summary of the lesson or unit including assignment or expected or possible products) This lesson is a simulation based on the idea of a space probe that returns samples to Earth. As the probe nears Earth, a micrometeorite damages the memory core, but not the samples. Students use the JPL website to gather information about the planets and create an hypothesis regarding the origin of each of 6 samples. Students must come to a consensus and support each claim with data and reasoning.
Essential Questions (What essential question or learning are you addressing? What would students care or want to know about the topic? What are some questions to get students thinking about the topic or generate interest about the topic? What questions can you ask students to help them focus on important aspects of the topic? What background or prior knowledge will you expect students to bring to this topic and build on?) What would samples from each of the planets in our Solar System look like if brought to Earth? What are each of the planets made of?
Assessment (What will students do or produce to illustrate their learning? What can students do to generate new knowledge? How will you assess how students are progressing (formative assessment)? How will you assess what they produce or do? How will you differentiate products?) Are the correct elements for each planet identified? Is there substantial justification for the choice of each sample’s “home” planet? Are alternative possibilities discussed and refuted? Finally, what evidence do they bring that the group shared work, collaborated and came to consensus?
Resources (How does technology support student learning? What digital tools, and resources—online student tools, research sites, student handouts, tools, tutorials, templates, assessment rubrics, etc—help elucidate or explain the content or allow students to interact with the content? What previous technology skills should students have to complete this project?) The major resource is the JPL website: http://sse.jpl.nasa.gov/index.cfm
Teacher must develop relevant rubrics with the students at the beginning of the course to set expectations for content, discussion, evidence of collaboration and alternative rival hypotheses. The students examine small plastic containers (GLAD makes these) filled with: 1)4 tablespoons of sharp sand and a small leaf fragment 2)4 tablespoons of sharp sand only 3)4 tablespoons of sharp sand and 1 tablespoon model railroad ballast (red) 5)1/2 tablespoon clear ammonia, labeled "toxic" 6) 4 tablespoons clear ammonia, labeled "toxic". Just for fun, you can also include one completely empty container to see what the students come up with!
Instructional Plan Preparation (What student needs, interests, and prior learning provide a foundation for this lesson? How can you find out if students have this foundation? What difficulties might students have?) Students need to know basic information about the structure of the solar system and it’s formation as well as how to use a browser to navigate the JPL website, take notes and prepare documents for the teacher as evidence of research. Students need to know how to cite sources. Students need to know the skills necessary for collaboration including setting ground-rules, nominal group process, responsibility for documentation and reporting out.
Management (How and where will your students work? Classroom, lab, groups, etc? Students will do some work in the classroom, and have computers available for research. Students should be sitting in collaborative groups and document progress each session. Depending on computer availability, this could be via a paper checklist or a shared document in Google. A wiki could also be used to track progress and demonstrate the usefulness to the entire class shared communication can be. Groups can compare progress and discuss with the teacher.
Instruction and Activities (What instructional strategies will you use with this lesson? How will your learning environment support these activities? What is your role? What are the students' roles in the lesson? How can the technology support your teaching? What engaged and worthwhile learning activities and tasks will your students complete? How will they build knowledge and skills? Will students be expected to collaborate with each other and others? How will you facilitate the collaboration?) Lesson 1 give the story of a mysterious Voyager spacecraft that was launched decades ago to take samples from each planet then bring them back to Earth. When collecting the final sample, a micrometeroid hit the memory core, and the probe was assumed lost, but then just a month ago it’s signal was detected and it successfully landed on Earth with the payload intact. Students mission: decide which planet each sample came from based on the planets composition and the conditions here on Earth. (continued next page)
Lesson 2 -8: Teacher goes over rubrics or develops them with students. Teacher then guides groups of students to complete investigating the composition of the planets on the JPL website, document evidence of coming to consensus for each sample, and track progress. Students rate the group on investigation, collaboration and report out each day. Final 2 Lessons: Students present findings as a group, accept questions at the end of the presentation, and document audience response.
Differentiation (How will you differentiate content and process to accommodate various learning styles and abilities? How will you help students learn independently and with others? How will you provide extensions and opportunities for enrichment? What assistive technologies will you need to provide?) Groups will use pre-determined roles (researcher, presenter, process monitor, reporter, etc) based on each student’s strengths. The expectation of collaboration as an equal part of the assessment will communicate the importance of following group agreements and trying to solve problems before taking them to the teacher. Extensions include (based on student interest) individual reports about different robotic missions (Stardust, for example) or an in-depth study of a selected planet with a report out to the class with websites.
Closure and Reflection (Will there be a closing event? Will students be asked to reflect upon their work? Will students be asked to provide feedback on the assignment itself? What will be your process for answering the following questions? • Did students find the lesson meaningful and worth completing? • In what ways was this lesson effective? • What went well and why? • What did not go well and why? • How would you teach this lesson differently?
During the final lessons, as each group presents information, it is fun and exciting for the teacher to tally which sample is identified for each planet. The lesson is more successful if only a few teams disagree about a sample, which can lead to a bit more research, led by the teacher, to solve the disagreement. Students can be given a multiple choice assessment of knowledge of planetary composition, then constructed response questions to evaluate collaboration and research effectiveness.