April 20, 2017 – Second grade teacher Kevin Koch took his students on a mission to Mars as a part of their historical fiction unit. Students started the project by reading various books from the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis, which feature a boy who lives through thrilling stories from history such as the American Revolution, Hurricane Katrina and the sinking of the Titanic.
“Although we are studying historical fiction, I decided to flip the project to the future and have created learning opportunities about the future,” Koch said.
Students applied what they learned in the books to their I Survived a Mission to Mars project. After taking a survey of his students, Koch incorporated their interests of fashion, Pokémon cards, LEGOs, movies, math, science and reading into the project. Students chose from four I Survived a Mission to Mars options, including designing a spacesuit, building a colony, creating augmented reality trading cards or producing a stop animation movie.
Koch arranged mentors for each project, including NASA scientists Caitlin Nolby and Marissa Saad. Nolby and Saad Skyped with Koch’s students and shared updates about what projects NASA is working on to prepare for a mission to Mars. They showcased three spacesuits including the special features of the suits and how astronauts use them. Students also asked Nolby and Saad specific questions about their projects.
“I want the female learners in my classroom to know they can have a future in science and an example of what that might look like,” Koch said.
Students who designed a spacesuit learned about the atmosphere on Mars, how spacesuits are currently made and explored different fabrics. Third grade teacher Alyssa Wargin mentored the spacesuit group on fashion and what clothing is comfortable and functional. Principal Judi Kahoun mentored students on how to design their own patterns for sewing a spacesuit and taught them the basics of sewing.
The students who used LEGOs to design a colony on Mars first determined what a community needs to survive and thrive on Mars. Based on their findings, students worked through the engineering design process to create a prototype.
Students who created augmented reality trading cards started with research on the climate of Mars. They discovered what astronauts and scientists would need to sustain life on mars. Third grade teacher Michael Wojtalewicz mentored students on the basic components of design and provided support with creating trading cards.
“Each of them will show you what you need to do to prepare for a mission to mars,” said second grader Addison Rasmussen. “I also made videos about each one of the cards.”
Learners interested in creating a movie researched what NASA does to prepare for a mission and what the environment on Mars is like. They designed stop-motion videos to help educate other students about landing on Mars.
Students presented their projects to students in other classes and families at a showcase on Wednesday, April 19.
“Some scientists believe that by the time the students in my classroom graduate from college, we will have astronauts on Mars,” Koch said.
“I really want to impress upon the kids that the things they’re working on are things they could be doing in reality,” Koch said. “Hopefully, they can see their passion and what they’re excited about is something that translates into a career for them at some point.”