These curriculum lesson plans are designed to be taught during a time period of twenty days. The unit itself is developed in a progressive history of flight format which allows for teacher-led discussions, oral and silent readings, and a wide selection of student-planned activities.
Current research has demonstrated that learning activities which focus on hand-on lessons enables students to maximize their retention of the material being disseminated. Additionally, these lessons lend themselves nicely to creative thinking and shared enthusiasm for the experience. Many teachers may choose to devote additional time to certain areas of instruction and less time to others. These lessons have been designed to allow for flexibility and I hope that instructors will tailor the unit to fit the needs of their classrooms.
The first day will provide a general overview of the history of flight. Teacher-led discussions will focus on our unit outline, highlighting important discoveries in flight and space flight.
The second day will again provide an overview of our space program, focusing on the four Skylab missions and the numerous Space Shuttle missions. Teacher-led discussions on micro-gravity principles will enable our students to comprehend the working environment aboard space vehicles.
In a Social Studies lesson, we will develop a chronological timeline for actual flight milestones and spaceflight triumphs. We will later enlarge our timeline in art class for a classroom wall display. This project will provide a daily focus outline for our unit of study.
Having constructed our timeline, students will be encouraged to select one of the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, or Shuttle missions to research independently in our computer lab. These “lab technicians” will print relevant materials to be shared with our entire class in a weekly oral discussion period. Working tangentially, the students may develop a monthly newsletter to be shared with other classes or they might seek to develop a peer tutorial program with grade level students. (Lab smocks worn by these researchers might add a
nice touch and an air of curiosity to other students as these researchers walk to and from the computer labs on a daily basis.)
“Movie Presentations” - to be introduced by the instructor and then to be followed by group discussions in the context of the computer research being done by the classroom’s lab technicians. “Newton In Space”. This movie introduces motions and their applications to space travel. The program explains the differences between weight and mass, balance and unbalance forces, and action and opposite reactions. Space Shuttle astronauts conduct simple force and motion demonstrations in micro-gravity conditions.
“Space Basics” - This movie answers basic questions about space flight including: how spacecraft travel into space: how spacecraft remain in orbit; why astronauts float in space; and how spacecraft return to earth. Newton’s Laws of Motion are revisited to further explain the basic science of orbiting the Earth. This movie is suitable for middle school students and is approximately 21 minutes in length.
“Micro-gravity”. This movie is available from the NASA Educational Satellite Video conference series and is approximately 60 minutes in length. NASA personnel present micro-gravity concepts, discuss scientific research and engage in hands-on activities with students and teachers who call in on conference phones and computers. This project serves to answer some of the questions that students may have about specific payloads and experiments being conducted on spacecraft missions that they are researching for their individual projects.
Having developed a background of relevant information, we will encourage each student to write to NASA - c/o Goddard Space Center or the United States Space Foundation to secure additional resource materials relevant to their area of research. Students will write their first drafts from a graphic organizer of ideas and then, they will rewrite their letters, having been checked carefully by fellow classmates. This cooperative learning process continues to pay rich dividends in shared knowledge. All letters will be mailed, anticipating noteworthy responses.
Slide Presentation on Micro-gravity - These slides are available through NASA and are suitable for grades 8-12. The 24 slides illustrate the basic concepts of micro-gravity and describes four areas of micro-gravity research, including: biotechnology, combustion science, fluid physics and materials science.
These educational software products can be shared in our computer laboratories. The micro-gravity tutorial is designed to motivate teachers and students to study science, mathematics, and technology. Students will use inverses, squares, and ratios to calculate gravity in space and orbiting patterns.
Days 17, 18
These two days will be spent in our science laboratory conducting experiments to demonstrate that free fall eliminates the local effects of gravity. One such demonstration involves a water-filled cup which is inverted a top of a cookie sheet. Before releasing the cookie sheet, the gravitational forces or weight of the cup and water are counteracted by the cookie sheet. Upon removing the sheet, students will be asked to anticipate the results of the experiment.
Since Galileo demonstrated that all objects accelerate similarly in Earth’s gravity, the cup and the water will move together. Consequently, the water will remain in the cup throughout the entire Similar experiments will be performed to amply demonstrate free fall concepts.
We will bring our unit to a conclusion with the viewing of the movie “From The Earth To The Moon”, a series created by HBO this past year. Students will enjoy exciting scenes detailing everything from take-off to landing during the Apollo 11 mission, reliving the amazing voyage to the Moon.