Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spontaneous Space and Aerospace class

Late one night it occurred to me that most of Annabeth's co op classes weren't meeting the next day due to various circumstances. Since I had an hour free during the time the science class met I emailed everyone and said I'd do an optional science class about space, which would dovetail with our family's trip to the planetarium. The main criteria for selecting activities was that they required almost no prep and almost no supplies since I didn't have time to mess with that sort of thing.

We started of by looking at the relative size of planets while we were in the classroom (I had the correct supplies for this around the house, and no one in the class was allergic to peanuts). Then we went outside to mark off how far apart the planets were, except we didn't have enough space to do it relative to the peppercorns, etc., so we pretended the sun was actually a half inch in diameter and used that as the number in this javascript . Various kids were holding index cards that had planet names, and they were standing practically shoulder-to-shoulder for the inner planets, then Jupiter, etc., had to go waaay down the parking lot. I thought it was a cool hands on demo that made good use of having a crowd of kids together.

Back inside we calculated their ages on other planets (I had taken in an iPad, but a laptop would've worked just fine, too), which they thought was an absolute riot. We also calculated my age and Thalia's (Thalia had come in to help, which was great because she's good with kids and loves astronomy, but bad because she was sick). We filled out worksheets about what we'd discussed so far. Then we discussed some of the then-current space news -- this was while Discovery was still at the International Space Station, and Captain Kirk had awoken the crew that morning. We mixed up some Tang to toast the occasion

(Really this picture is from supper that night because Annabeth was so enchanted by this whole thing that she drank gallons of Tang all week long.)

Actually we used Dixie cups to drink it in class, as I would've been seriously upset if any of the glasses had gotten broken. By the way, we can't remember where that carafe and glasses came from -- was it the grocery? Did you have to purchase Tang? Maybe the gas station? Also, whatever happened to all the BC glasses we had growing up?

Anyway, we still had time left in our hour, so we turned to the Junior Girl Scout badge book (of course -- you saw that coming, right? since this was a group of 3rd through 5th graders OF COURSE my favorite resource is going to be the Badge Book -- yeah, that book that GSUSA is getting rid of because they're idiots). We had already accomplished part of a couple of badges by discussing the space shuttle, so we used our worksheets to make paper airplanes (Aerospace badge activity #1) under the direction of Thalia, who is a GREAT maker of paper airplanes. Then we put on an air show with them (activity #9 of the same badge).

Once I got home I emailed the parents of the other Junior Girl Scout in the class and listed out how she could finish the Aerospace Badge on her own (e.g., make a glider, make a kite, visit an airport, etc.). Also, March is Women's History Month at NASA For Students, which makes it really easy to complete activity #10 Women Flying High in Space. I also suggested that they start the Sky Search badge while they were at it.

Overall, not bad for throwing together a lesson for a bunch of kids I didn't know in a couple of hours. If I'd had more time I would've done things differently, but I liked a lot of what we did.

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