Lesson plans, interactive activities, and other resources to help students learn about and explore our solar system
Scholastic's "Challenging the Space Frontier" Online Activity gives students an opportunity to learn about the historical impact of space exploration. A time line of space firsts helps students learn about initial efforts to explore worlds beyond our own. They can also find out about three spaceflights that changed the public's perception of our world and the world beyond: John Glenn's orbiting of Earth onboard Friendship 7 in 1963; the first landing on the moon in Apollo 11; and Sally Ride's flight aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. In addition, students can read interviews with two of the most important figures in the history of space exploration: astronauts Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, and Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. Finally, students can build on what they have learned by creating their own Space Exploration timeline using Tom Snyder ® Productions' Timeliner 5.0 Demo.
Assessment and Rubrics
This project offers the following opportunities for assessment of student learning:
- Think About It: Use the in-class discussion of the "Think About It" questions included in the photo-stories as an opportunity for informal assessment of students' comprehension. For a more formal assessment vehicle, you can ask students to develop short essays based on the questions and use their responses.
- Reporter's Notebook: Ask students to develop five questions each that they would have liked to have asked Sally Ride and Buzz Aldrin during an interview.
- Group Research Reports: Assess students' collaborative learning skills as well as their research and learning based on their oral presentations of topics from the Space Firsts time line.
- Quizzes: Ask your students to play the History Mystery game covering the historic Apollo-Soyuz spaceflight, or to go on an Internet scavenger hunt covering space in the Outer Space Math Hunt.
In the course of participating in "Challenging the Space Frontier," students will:
- Learn about the history of space exploration in the context of the "space race" during the Cold War
- Improve content-area reading skills, including comprehension and vocabulary
- Reflect on what has been learned after reading by formulating ideas, opinions, and personal responses
- Use discussion with peers as a way of understanding information;
- Learn to do online research
- Develop thoughtful, focused questions about their reading
- Create a timeline using information and media from their own research
Top 20 Space Firsts
By exploring this interactive time line, students learn about important milestones in the history of space exploration. For each "space first" covered, there is a link to an outside Web site that provides valuable, in-depth information about the topic covered. Highlights include: the first satellite to orbit Earth; the first animal in space; the first space rescue; the first international docking in space; the first space station; and the first landing on Mars.
Step back in time and learn about the early years of the race to space. Students will relive John Glenn's historic orbit of Earth and get the inside scoop on the flight that made this test pilot and future senator an American hero. At the end of each chapter of the photo-story, there is a "Think About It" question designed to provoke in-class discussion about the material covered.
Students will get background on the Cold War and America's determination to be the first to the moon. Then, they can relive the experience of the first men on the moon - Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Students can read the transcript of Buzz Aldrin's interview with teachers and students.
Students can find out about the introduction of the shuttle program and its impact on space exploration. Then, they'll learn about trailblazing scientist Sally Ride - the first American woman in space. Students can read the transcript of Sally Ride's interview with teachers and students.
Make Your Own Timeline
Using the Tom Snyder ® Productions' Timeliner, students can explore a timeline of important dates and photos of space exploration. Using the resources from the project, students can add important information to this timeline. Note: this requires a download.
Lesson Planning Suggestions
Build Space Exploration Background
(1-2 days) Explain to students that they will be learning about the history of space exploration and its impact on the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Explain that they will be reading the stories of three space missions - Apollo 11, Friendship 7, and STS-7.
Begin the unit with a discussion of the knowledge students already possess of space. Hone in particularly on the three events explored here. Record responses on the chalkboard. Have students keep a space journal in which they record their reactions and feelings to the material as they work through the project. Have students record their thoughts about the new information in their journal.
Friendship 7 (1-2 days)
This week, focus on the story of Friendship 7 - Glenn's original flight into space. They can also read Glenn's biography and find out how the career of this test pilot, astronaut, and U.S. senator has changed over the years. Ask your students to compare the differences between Glenn's original spaceflight and the flight of STS-95.
Apollo 11 (1-2 days)
Explore the Apollo 11 photo-story with your students, and have them discuss the flight and its historic impact. As a class, come up with questions you would have liked to ask Buzz Aldrin. Review the transcript of Scholastic students' interview with Buzz Aldrin to see if any of your questions were answered.
STS-7 (1-2 days)
Review the photo-story covering the flight of STS-7 and Sally Ride's historic journey into space. How was Dr. Ride's flight different from that of Friendship 7 and Apollo 11? Compare her flight with that of the first woman Soviet cosmonaut, covered in Space Firsts. Why do you think it took so long for America to fly a woman astronaut to space? Discuss the flight with your class, and ask your students to read the interview Scholastic students held with Sally Ride.
Top 20 Space Firsts (2-3 days)
Review the Top 20 Space Firsts timeline. You may want to break your class into small groups and assign each group different milestones covered in the time line. Each group can use the Web links provided to do more research, and can present what they've learned to the class. Remind students to take notes in their space journals as they will need this information when they build their own timeline.
Build a Timeline
Note: You will need to download the Tom Snyder® Productions Timeliner Demo 5.0 before using the timeline in the classroom. Click here for download directions.
Build Background (half day)
Engage students in a discussion about what they have learned about space exploration. Discuss the timeline of events for the United States and the world. Discuss important dates of space exploration and as a class, record these dates.
Build Your Own Timeline (2 days)
Assign small groups to research one of the dates discussed earlier. Have the students find information as well as one piece of media (photograph, film, or sound file) from the Internet. Tom Snyder has a good resource list of sites for finding images and clip art. Once students have gathered their information, as a class, compile the information. Students will enter this information into the Space Exploration timeline, which they can print out. (Note: Students will not be able to save their timelines with the Tom Snyder Timeliner Demo. Make sure you have enough time left in the class for students to enter their information in one sitting.)
National Standards Correlations
This project aids students in meeting national standards in several curriculum areas.
National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
- Time, Continuity, and Change (Students focus on how the world has changed in order to gain perspective on the present and the future.)
- Individuals, Groups, and Institutions (Students study interactions among individuals, groups, and institutions.)
- People, Places, and Environments (Students utilize technological advances to connect to the world beyond their personal locations. The study of people, places, and human-environment interactions assists learners as they create their spatial views and geographic perspectives of the world.)
- Power, Authority, and Governance (Students study how people create and change structures of power, authority, and governance.)
- Global Connections (Students analyze patterns and relationships within and among world cultures.)
- Science, Technology, and Society (Students study relationships among science, technology and society.)
Reading/Language Arts National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA)
- Read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world (1).
- Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions (7).
- Students use a variety of technological and informational resources (libraries, databases, computer networks) to gather and synthesize information in order to create and communicate knowledge (8).
- Students use spoken, written, and visual language for learning, persuasion, and exchange of information (12).
Technology Foundation Standards for Students
- Use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity.
- Use technology tools to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences.
- Use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences.
- use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources.
- Use technology tools to process data and report results.
- employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world.
Cross-Curricular Extensions and Activities
Grades 2-8: Art
Ask students to design postage stamps commemorating the three historic flights covered in the Learning Adventure. Or they can research the rockets and capsules used and draw diagrams of Friendship 7, Apollo 11, STS-7, or STS-95. Then, students can create an exhibit of their artwork on the classroom bulletin board or in school hallways.
Grades 3-8: Language Arts and Social Studies
Ask students to write a short essay on how they think it would feel to be one of the ground-breaking astronauts they've studied. Or, ask students to pick a ground-breaking spaceflight covered in the Top 20 Space Firsts timeline and research and write a short report on it, or to write a biography of another astronaut. Students can present their reports aloud to the class, or they can collate all of their reports and create a pamphlet to be distributed to the entire class.
Grades 3-8: Art
Have students use the Tom Snyder ® Productions Timeliner or print the Space Exploration timeline and add images or drawings to create a full space exploration multimedia timeline.
Grades 5-8: Social Studies
Ask students to take information from the Top 20 Space Firsts time line and create a time line that covers important space breakthroughs and their relation to significant occurrences during the Cold War.
Grades 5-8: Science
Ask students to do research on upcoming spaceflights and learn about the latest scientific discoveries on the space frontier. Students can write up short science journals on the various missions NASA is planning.
This page includes links outside of Scholastic.com
STS-95: John Glenn Page
Visit NASA's Web site covering John Glenn's initial role in the Mercury space program and his launch into space onboard STS-95.
Upcoming Space Shuttle Missions
This site provides an up-to-date listing of scheduled space shuttle launch dates, and includes the location, expected time of landing, facts on the shuttle vehicle, and biographies of the crew.
National Air and Space Museum
You can explore the history and science of flight online at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Support material for teachers and students for every exhibit is here, as well as a thorough exploration of flight. Lesson plans, demonstration ideas, hands-on activities, historical exhibits online, and support links are included.
NASA Space Shuttle Launches
Specific information from preparation to conclusion of every space shuttle mission from 1981 to the present is provided by NASA at this site. Launch and landing movies are available to download, and background information with supporting links are included.
NASA Astronaut Biographies
This site features the biographies of astronauts and cosmonauts and information about NASA's astronaut agency and program. You can find the astronauts in an alphabetical list or grouped by mission.
Challenger Remembered: The Shuttle Challenger's Final Voyage
Millions sat glued to their televisions and witnessed a disaster as a major malfunction led to the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. This site, done by a veteran space correspondent who was at the launch, records the events through a step-by-step launch-day chronicle and time line, and offers other links about space.
3. . . 2. . . 1 . . . Blastoff!
Here you can find movies, text, pictures, and links to various space-related topics. A hands-on science activity is included. The site is designed to be used with the Girl Scouts' Science Scouts program.