news & tips
A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching
NASA and their budget cuts has been a news topic this week. Not many of my students are tracking the changes to the US space program but those of us who sat spellbound while Neil Armstrong walked on the moon may view the changes with a bit of sadness. But, even with the cuts there is plenty going on in space to wrap a good amount of curriculum around. After all May 7th is Space Day and Lockheed Martin has built a web site with some good lesson plans, games and links to NASA student activities and contests.
It may be too late to get something large going at your school for Space Day but this day comes around the first Friday of every May. So, you could archive some of these materials for next year.
The big piece of this year’s celebration is “student Signatures in Space”. This program allows students from classrooms around the country to send in their signatures and have them launched into space as part of the fall payload. Participating schools also get a packet with lessons and organizers so that the kids can follow their mission.
Since it is spring and we can finally get outside to enjoy some weather that does not include snow or frostbite it is a good time to explore forces and motion using some simple rockets. Inside the building it is easy to use balloon powered rockets to explore thrust and to alter conditions to increase thrust, decrease drag and generally have a great time learning about forces.
Here you need to string some fairly strong fishing line overhead (10 pound test is good) from one end of your room to the other. Keep it above 7 feet so no one hits in while in your room. Before you attach the fishing line string the line through some plastic straws through the line. These straws are taped to inflated balloons the kids modify. Then, with the balloon rocket taped to the straw you are ready to launch.
There are several good web sites that give excellent directions and modifications.
This is a fairly good variables exploration lab. You can modify the type of straw, length of straw, shape or size of the balloon, the type of string, or the angle of the string. One 4th grade teacher ties two or three lines across her room and has the students race their balloons. The students are allowed to test some balloon types and then explore the other variables (but not angle or type of string). They can even add fins or wings to their balloon. Then, they race their balloon against others in the class. Official timers keep track of speeds and make sure the start is fair. This is a great lab for space day.
Outside rockets can be those you buy commercially but 2 liter bottles partly filled with water make excellent rockets. The launch pad is fairly easy to make and you only need a good bicycle pump and some simple hardware. I had one handy Mom and two handy Dads make 4 for my class a few years back.
Once you have a launcher or two you can have the kids construct the rockets.
This activity is a great one for the end of the year as it gets the kids outside and provides a good deal of structure as the students should be required to keep accurate data on their flights and the flights of others.
Well, 2 liter bottles are not exactly “one Small step for man one giant leap for mankind” moments. They are good opportunities to interest a new generation in space. The first giant leap is creating enough curiosity to get off the planet. Happy Space Day 2010!