SPACE: YOUR FUTURE FRONTIER?
Grades 5 - 6
In this lesson the students will explore careers in space and
experience how math and science concepts are applied in a space program.
The students will observe three areas of science or technology that are
essential to a space program and will actively participate in cooperative
group exercises designed to illustrate how math and science are fundamentals
of careers in space.
FUTURES #109: Putting Man In Space
Students should be able to:
- ascertain requested data and average findings to represent a mean
proportion, size or rate;
- describe how mathematics, science, and technology are essential to
the Shuttle Program;
- identify three career positions of a United States Space Shuttle crew
or support staff;
- list three areas of science or technology that are essential to the
Space Shuttle Program, and cooperatively produce a 5 minute oral presentation
on their findings.
Group 1 - "Space Suit Manufacturers"
- overhead projector
- vocabulary transparency or cue cards
- "Focus for Viewing" handout
- 1 envelope/box for each group (4) with all materials and directions
necessary for their assignment
Group 2 - "Underwater Training Data Collectors"
- "Average" Record Sheet (sample attached)
- poster board/large paper to record information
- space suit poster/picture/diagram
- measuring tape(s), one for every pair of students
Group 3 - "Shuttle Control Diagram Specialists"
- "How Fast Can You Swim In Space?" record sheet (sample attached)
- poster board/large paper to record information
- measuring tape
- stopwatch or clock with second hand
- "We've Had A Change In Plans" record sheet (sample attached)
- picture(s) of the control panels of spacecraft
- 2 pieces of cardboard or posterboard of different sizes (approximately
8" x 10" & 4" x 6") ruler(s)
- scratch paper
- colored pasta (3 types)
- odds & ends "junk" like jar lids, rings, foil, hangers,
stickers, material scraps, buttons, etc. Group 4 - "NASA Recruits"
- "NASA Job Description" record sheet (sample attached)
- 4 Nameplates; Flight Engineer, Commander, Pilot, and Scientist (hole
punched with string to put around neck)
- poster board/large paper to record information
NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Manufacturer - a person or company in the business of manufacturing
Collector - a person gathering data.
Diagram - a geometric figure, used to illustrate a mathematical statement.
Specialist - an expert in a particular field of study, professional
Recruit - a new member of any group, body, or organization.
Control - an instrument to regulate a mechanism, a device used to
adjust or control (knob).
Propulsion - something that moves; pushing or driving force.
Dexterity - skill in using one's hands or body.
Average - the numerical result obtained by dividing the sum of two
or more quantities by the number of quantities; an arithmetic mean.
Begin the lesson by dividing the class in half representing
two teams. Play a short game similar to "Jeopardy" wherein you
provide the answer to each vocabulary term and call upon a team to answer.
For example: if you read aloud and posted the answer, a person collecting
data, (on the overhead or cue card), the chosen team must respond, "What
is a collector?" If the chosen team responds incorrectly, the other
team gets a chance to respond to the same question. Play until all terms
are defined and reward winning team (at a later time) with something that
fits into your classroom management style such as free time or a token reward.
Choose a student recorder and ask them to record student responses as you
guide the class into a discussion using questions similar to the following:
What do these vocabulary terms have in common? (They are all used in space.)
What subjects do we study that support these terms? (Math and Science.)
What might we be studying about today? (Careers in space.)
Note to teacher: You may need to tailor these questions
to your classes' specific learning ability by adding more questions or guiding
responses toward careers in space.
Affirm that today's topic of study will be careers in space and how
math and science can be used in space careers. Specifically, the students
will gather, record, and mathematically manipulate data to a defined outcome.
Students will then put their findings in proper written and oral form.
You may want to explain to the students that this series is filmed in Mr.
Escalante's classroom and that he is nationally recognized for raising standardized
test scores within a minority majority school in California. Some students
may be familiar with the movie Stand and Deliver, starring Edward James
Olmos (1989/Rated PG) as Mr. Escalante.
The focus for viewing is a specific responsibility or task (s)
that the students are responsible for during or after watching the video
to focus and engage the students' viewing attention. To give students a
specific responsibility while viewing, pass out "Focus For Viewing"
sheet. This lesson contains two foci for viewing. Explain to students that
their first responsibility while viewing is recording, on their handout,
three content areas of scientific study (mentioned in the video) that may
predetermine a career in space. Their second responsibility is to record,
on their handout, three specific types of mathematics mentioned in the video
and in what application are they used. Inform students that you will be
pausing the video and asking them questions at random. Let the students
know if they need time to record answers etc. to raise their hand thus signaling
you that they need the video paused so they can record their answers.
BEGIN the video Futures #109: Putting Man In Space at
the scene where the model space shuttle is flying around the desk.
PAUSE the video after seeing the picture of Bonnie Dunbar and ask
the following: What is the title of the first person we see? (Astronaut)
What does she do? (Flies in Space) This may be a good time to interject
to the students that even though the video is called "Putting Man In
Space," the first person you actually see is a female astronaut. Thus
the term "man" refers to humans. RESUME the video.
PAUSE the video when the scene features music from the Beach Boys
song, "Round, Round, Get Around," and ask the following: What
areas of scientific study were mentioned? (Astronomy, Geology, Engineer,
Material Science, Scientist) Why would these be important to a career in
space? (Answers will vary) You may have to rewind and play again to ensure
answers are recorded on viewing sheets. RESUME the video.
PAUSE the video when the shuttle is lifting off and ask the following:
What does Jerry Borrer do? (He monitors space propulsion systems) What types
of mathematics might he use in his job? (Distance, rate, time, measurement,
etc.) RESUME the video.
PAUSE the video after the astronaut says "Good work cabin, way
to go." Ask the following: Are you beginning to see a variety of mathematical
applications in science? (Answers will vary.) What area of science/technology
did the astronaut mention they use aboard the shuttle? (Robotics) What type
of math would you use? (Answers will vary.) RESUME the video.
PAUSE the video when the ground crew at Houston starts cheering.
Ask the following: What types of technology do they use for problem solving?
(Computers.) How do they manipulate their data? (With computers.) RESUME
PAUSE the video when Bonnie Dunbar says, "We practice as much
as we can . . . only most of it is in a simulator." Ask the following:
What is a simulator? (Something that resembles an actual thing) What are
some things we use that are simulated? (Video games, TV, etc.) RESUME
PAUSE the video when Andre Sylvester says, "the system is very
much like a video game . . . each of the parts of the system are modeled
mathematically to be as realistic as possible." Ask the following:
What technology does his job utilize? (Video) How is the video modeled?
(Mathematically) Do video games increase dexterity? (Yes)
Remind students that they should now be looking for their second FOCUS
FOR VIEWING. RESUME the video.
PAUSE the video when Mr. Martinez says, "The pool is used to
train the astronaut for weightlessness." Ask the following: What types
of data could be collected in this training environment? (Distance, air
supply, time to complete a task etc.) RESUME the video.
PAUSE the video when Anne Murray says, "we would have a robot
that acts like a lifeguard in space." Ask the following: What are two
ways to use robotics in space? (Retrieval, mechanical devices, etc.) How
would you use math in building and programming a robot? (Arm lengths, curves,
directions, etc.) RESUME the video.
STOP the video when Escalante (the classroom teacher) says, "it
could play baseball." Ask the following: What types of mathematics
are used to program robots? (Geometry and trigonometry.)
Ask students to think for a minute about the diversity of careers
in space. Ask if these various career paths had met or exceeded their expectations.
Allow for discussion and invite students to cite specific examples of careers
they may choose if allowed to enter the space program. End the discussion
by telling students that they will soon embark on their first simulation
of a space career! Ask them to think back to the portion of the video when
the astronaut is performing maneuvers outside the spacecraft. What is the
astronaut wearing? (A spacesuit). Who designs these suits? (Engineers, scientists).
Ask students to think about the underwater training shown in the video.
Ask rhetorically, Who decides what data is recorded? Who records the data?
Think about the inside of the spacecraft. How are the dimensions decided?
Tell students that they will be breaking into groups to take on their first
challenge as part of a simulated space program!
Divide the students into four cooperative groups of 4-8 students each. Explain
that each group must divide cooperative roles into 5 positions: reader,
recorder, presenter, task master, clarifier. The reader orally reads the
assignment to the group, the recorder writes the groups' written materials,
the presenter will orally present the groups' findings, the task master
keep track of time limits and progress, and the clarifier is responsible
for asking any questions necessary to complete the assigned tasks. Some
groups may have two persons in a role.
Ask the groups to assemble in 4 different locations around the room and
give them each their assignment envelope/box. Let them know the time frame
for completing these group activities is about 30 minutes. Walk around and
monitor groups as they get started with their assignments. Assignments are
"Space Suit Manufacturers"
This group will focus on the manufacturing of space suits for astronauts.
Think back to the video when the astronaut was pulling the space suit on.
Did it seem like he could barely get his head through the hole in his space
suit? If you were going to make a space suit that would fit the average
person in your group, what would the dimensions be?
Your assignment is to measure and average assigned body parts of the persons
in record your information on a wall chart and on the "What's Your
Average?" record sheet. The chart will be used for your oral presentation
and the sheet should have everyone's name and be turned in for a grade.
Your information will include measurements and averages of: arm length,
head circumference, height, and shoulder circumference. In addition you
will answer the following questions: Would your space suit fit the average
person in your group? Would it fit everyone in your group? State why or
why not. Do you think NASA uses averages to make space suits? State why
or why not. How must NASA manufacture space suits?
"Underwater Training Data Collectors"
In addition to getting astronauts used to the feel of weightlessness in
underwater training, NASA also uses these simulations to gather important
data. Think back to the portion of the film showing the underwater training.
Consider these questions. How does NASA know how long to make a security
cord for exploration that occurs outside of the spacecraft? How long will
it take a robot versus a person to travel 100 yards in space? How long would
it take for a robot to rescue a disabled astronaut? Do all humans move at
the same rate in space? How about their oxygen, do all astronauts breath
at the same rate?
Your assignment is to mark off an 18 foot section of space within the room
or hallway. Using a stop watch or second hand, time each member of your
group to see how long it takes them to walk 9 feet. Do this 3 times with
each person. Record your data on the wall chart and on the "How Fast
Can You Swim In Space?" record sheet. The chart will be used for your
oral presentation and the sheet should have everyone's name and be turned
in for a grade. Average each persons' time for 3 attempts. Find the groups'
average time for each attempt. In addition you will answer the following
questions: How did the individual averages change from attempt 1 to 2? How
did they change from attempt 2 to 3? What was the slowest time? What was
the fastest time? How will you find an overall time average for traveling
the distance of 9 feet?
"Shuttle Control Diagram Specialists"
The inside of the space shuttle is filled with control panels, gauges, and
knobs. How does NASA get all that stuff to fit?!? Think about the film and
recall when the engineer said, "there are over 2,000 controls on the
space shuttle panel."
Your assignment is pretend that you are part of the control team. Your design
for the shuttle interior is complete. You've accounted for every knob, gauge,
and lever that the astronauts need to fly the spacecraft. There is however,
one problem. Houston has reduced to size of two of your panels. The larger
panel is reduced by 1/3 or 33%. The smaller panel is reduced by 1/4 or 25%.
As a team you need to re-figure your dimensions. Write down the steps you
take to adjust your space available on the "We've Had A Change In Plans"
record sheet. The sheet should have everyone's name and be turned in for
a grade. When your information is complete use a black marker and outline
the new dimensions on the large and small posterboard respectively. Use
the supplied materials to make a simulated control panel. Be creative and
NASA is visiting your class to find new volunteers for the space program.
Of course they are interested in persons who enjoy math, science, and a
challenging career. As you have learned from the video, there are lots of
career positions besides astronaut!
Your assignment is to apply for a position among the nameplates provided.
Individually fill out the job description questionnaire as thoughtfully
as possible. You will be graded on these answers and your ability to work
cooperatively within your group. After all members of your group have competed
the "NASA Job Description Application" record sheet, go around
the group and share your responses. When everyone in your group has had
a chance to share their ideas, record, on your poster board, five things
you all had in common and five things that seemed very different. The chart
will be used for your oral presentation.
Monitor the groups' progress and assist as needed. After about 15 minutes
let the students know they are about halfway through their work time. Allow
another 10 minutes and give them a five minute warning. Close the activity
portion by letting each group give a 2-5 minute oral overview of their findings.
Explain that each group will rotate through each activity over the next
RESUME AND PLAY the video to the segments' end. Repeat the group
activities for the next 3 days keeping the oral presentations brief. After
each group has rotated through each station
REWIND AND REPLAY THE ENTIRE VIDEO SEGMENT letting the students'
request where to pause and discuss. They will informally assess their knowledge
in addition to their written materials and oral presentation.
Arrange for students to go on a field trip to the nearest Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) office and talk to persons in three different
Arrange for the students to interview person(s) regarding their positions
in a math or science field. Discover how professionals use mathematics daily.
Have students design and implement a scale model of the planets using chalk
on the blacktop or playground. Ask a local scientist or astronomer to be
a guest and participate.
The Nine Planets
- Have students work and experiment with robotics, actual or computerized,
such as Logo Writer.
- Have students plot coordinates for programming a robot to perform
a specific task.
- Have students build a mock cabin for a space shuttle.
Instructional Television can be taped off the air from your home or school.
Enlisting parent help is a time-saver! Schedules are available from your
State Department of Education or local PBS station.
Lesson plan developed by Master Teacher Teri Mahler, Lowell
Elementary School, Boise, Idaho
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