In the Voyage to the Planets WebQuest, student groups will take on real-life roles to research properties of celestial objects using computers connected to the Internet. They will use their research and create a PowerPoint presentation to give to the rest of the class at the end of the project. Each student will take on the role of astronomer in their research during the unit; in this role he will imagine what an astronomer would need to know about his topic. Other individual roles include the planetary scientist, who will become an expert in the physical properties of the celestial object; the engineer, who will design and build the probe model that will investigate the celestial object; and the expert in celestial mechanics, who will research the movements and gravitational forces of the object.
In the unit, students will research basic properties of their celestial object including: average distance to Sun, minimum distance to Earth, length of orbit, length of rotation, obliquity (tilt of axis), diameter, mass, surface temperature, composition of atmosphere, composition of object, number of known satellites, surface gravity, and escape velocity. They will also research various probes that have been created and sent into space to further research celestial bodies. The students will learn about the engineering features on the probe and how these features help discover new facts about these space objects. They will research the history of sending out space probes as well as what information the probes gathered as a result. The ultimate goal of the WebQuest probe model is for it to be chosen by a fictional panel of judges (the teacher) from "NASA" to be sent into space for a mission to that celestial object.
As explained in
The WebQuest Page
, "A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented activity in which most or all of the information used by learners is drawn from the Web. WebQuests are designed to use learners' time well, to focus on using information rather than looking for it, and to support learners' thinking at the levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation." Bernie Dodge developed the idea of the WebQuest in 1995 at San Diego State University. It also centers on the Constructivist theory where students explore and problem solve on their own while the teacher guides and facilitates learning.
The Voyage to the Planets WebQuest will take between three and four weeks in the current setting, allotting a minimum of 1 hour per day. Ample time must be given to the students to research their celestial object as well as work on the development of their PowerPoint and probe model. More days may be necessary if students must receive training on Internet searching as well as PowerPoint presentation making.