We Went to Space!

Last fall, we watched news about possible evidence of water on Mars, and our curiosity about space began with a lot of questions! In January, we watched a BrainPOP video about space travel. We had a LOT of questions! During that time, we were learning about Culture and Story, but we kept wondering about space. Mrs. B helped us download a NASA app to our iPads. From that app, we could watch videos, look at photos, and read about some of the things NASA was doing. We were already learning a lot about the Mars Rover. It’s called “Curiosity.” Did you know there’s a Mars Rover app, too?

All the while we were interested in space, many really interesting things were happening!

  • Commander Scott Kelly was on the International Space Station, and he was planning a return trip home after 340 days in space!
  • The New Horizons space probe took photos of Pluto on its way through the solar system. We loved seeing those photos!
  • We kept reading about how Curiosity took photos on Mars and about NASA scientists explaining the photos showing evidence of water that could have been on Mars.
  • Some people at CalTech believe there is another really large planet at the edge of our solar system. They call it Planet Nine.

When we started Block 4 (How the World Works), we started thinking about space even more. We started with this statement:

Earth is a unique planet and part of the solar system.

We started asking questions about that statement and some of the things we already knew:

  • What’s a solar system?
  • What makes Earth unique from the other planets?
  • What are the other planets in our solar system?
  • How do the planets move?
  • Why is Pluto not a planet anymore?
  • What are asteroids? How are they together in a belt?
  • What is the Kuiper Belt?
  • Where does the ISS orbit?

We started investigating by watching videos, visiting the Space Foundation Discovery Center, using our NASA app, reading books about space, and searching on different websites to find some answers. These investigations helped us answer some questions, but mostly it helped us to ask even more questions!

Sometimes, we investigated together as a class. Sometimes, we investigated in small groups. When we follow our curiosity, we notice that we aren’t always interested in learning the same things that our classmates want to know. Every once in a while, we got to investigate on our own! Some of the things we investigated:

  • What are the differences in asteroids, meteors, meteorites, and meteroids?
  • What do satellites do?
  • Why does the moon look like a circle sometimes, and other times it looks like a banana?
  • Why do some asteroids move and some stay in the asteroid belt?
  • Why did Scott Kelly grow two inches in space?
  • What are different kinds of spacecraft?
  • How many rovers have been on Mars? What are they supposed to do?
  • How did scientists “discover” Planet Nine if they have never seen it?
  • What is gravitational mass?

To help us learn more about what we learned, we did a lot of different activities! We chose to make models of planets. We built space station modules in Minecraft. Some of us built in a space mod called Galacticraft in Minecraft. We really liked being challenged to find the materials to go to the moon and Mars! We used chart paper and sticky notes to write some of the things we’ve learned in our investigations. We drew illustrations about what we learned and recorded voice narrations to explain what we created (some of these were on paper, and some were in our Seesaw app).

It was really great to be able to spend a lot of time on these investigations! We focused on space for about 14 weeks! Mrs. B wondered if we were getting bored with learning about space, but we weren’t! Every day, we came to school excited to talk about a PBS show we watched about Scott Kelly or to talk about how we watched the ISS fly over our homes when the sky was dark.

Some of the older kids in our class wrote blogs posts to share some of the things they learned:

Bodie’s Blog of Wonder

Nathan’s Blog of Wonder

Ryan’s Blog of Wonder

Zach’s Blog of Wonder

 

Also, we tweeted often about what we were learning. One day, a NASA engineer helped us learn, too! You can read this Storify of all our space tweets –

Curious About Space

 

We are very excited to present how we “went to space” at the ISTE conference this June. We will be sharing our poster session on Tuesday, June 28. If you’re attending ISTE, we hope you’ll come learn what we did!

 

 

Return to Discovery Center- Mars Rover Simulation

Last week, we returned to the Space Foundation Discovery Center in Colorado Springs to take part in their Mars Rover simulation! Yes, we were very fortunate to be one of the first classrooms to participate in this activity. So exciting!

When we arrived, Team Baldwin and Team Weissman (another awesome class from Anastasis) met in the simulation lab and learned about the history of the different rovers sent to Mars. The Discovery Center team talked to us about each rover, its capabilities, and what they have learned about Mars so far. The most recent rover sent to Mars is called Curiosity. We love that name! The lab looks a lot like the terrain on Mars! We looked at what they had created and then thought about which items might actually be on Mars versus those that look man-made.

Some of us were really surprised when it came time to “drive” the mini Mars rovers. We had assumed that we would use controllers like we have at home for Wii or Xbox. Instead, each station had its own laptop. The Discovery Center team divided us all into groups of 3 and then gave each student a role: Commander, Pilot, and Data Engineer. The Commanders decided which “moves” to execute. The Pilots used the program on the laptop to execute the moves, and then the Data Engineer recorded all the energy levels based on multiple factors for each move to make sure that we didn’t run out of battery before getting to our destination. Each student in the group took turns in all three roles. Lots of math, trial and error, and problem-solving!

We had a great time learning about the rovers! One of the things we learned was that when one of our mini rovers got stuck, the team could walk into the simulation and help us out. If that happens to Curiosity, no one can just take a quick trip to Mars to fix it. If Curiosity gets stuck, it’s a billion dollar mistake. Now we know why the commanders, pilots, and data engineers for NASA have to move very slowly and really think about each move that Curiosity takes.