"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Rocketing through the Research Process

A few weeks ago, our blog pals in Minnesota told us about the book Ron's Big Mission.  They also sent a picture of the Challenger crew and a video of the library ceremony where the library which Ron McNair helped integrate was renamed for him.  My students were eager to read the book to see what all the buzz was about.  I put my other lesson on hold and dove right in.  

My first grade students loved this book as much as their first grade pals in Minnesota.  Here's what I noticed though, after the discussion about integrating the library, their questions and interest were really about space travel and the space shuttle.  How could I ignore their passion for this subject? Knowing that the first graders would soon be embarking on their own ocean mammal research, I also saw this as a perfect opportunity to model and scaffold the research process.

When the students arrived the next week, I had a KWL chart ready to record their knowledge and interests.
From the KWL, we developed questions like these:

How is a space shuttle controlled?
How do they make the fire when blasting off?
How do they make a space shuttle?
How do people go space diving if the shield is less powerful?
How does the shield block the sun's heat?
How far can they travel or do they go out?
How much does an average fuel tank hold?
How long does it take to make a space shuttle?
How are they built
?How much oxygen is in a tank?
How high was the Challenger when it exploded?

We used the PebbleGo database to begin finding answers to our questions.  I modeled accessing and navigating the encyclopedia.  We read through the space shuttle article, watched the videos and explored the photographs.  Once we had exhausted that resource, we went to Encyclopedia Britannica and the NASA Website.

We began to fill in the blanks. I used blue lettering to show the answers to the questions.  The students were quick to let me know when I had forgotten to change the font color!

What size is a space shuttle?
The space shuttle is 184 feet long.  The orbiter is 122 feet long.

What are the parts of a space shuttle? orbiter, solid rocket boosters, external fuel tank -- parts of an orbiter: flight deck, middeck, thrusters, payload bay

What time during the takeoff process did the Space Shuttle Challenger explode? 73 seconds into takeoff

What is the difference between a rocket and a space shuttle? The word rocket describes the engine. The space shuttle is a kind of rocket. The space shuttle was first reusable aircraft.

What happens to the parts that come off the space shuttle in space? The solid boosters fall back into the ocean and are reused. The fuel tank burns up in space.


How far can they travel? 6.25 million miles

How many missions does a space shuttle go on? about 34

How much does the space shuttle weigh? 4.4 million pounds
We are ready to share our knowledge with our Minnesota friends.  We are hoping they can answer the questions we have not been able to or not found answers to.  I also have a connection to a NASA outreach person whom I plan to bring in as a primary source.
This has been so much fun and the more we learn the more questions they have.  Following our April vacation, they will each research a topic of their own interest using Pebble Go and present their findings to the class.  I cannot wait to see and hear and LEARN from my students.  

I think that has been one of the best parts of this experience, I have been learning about space shuttles right along side my students the whole way.  Go ahead and try me!  Ask me about the External Tank.  I know how much fuel it holds, the kind of fuel it holds, how much it weighs, the other purpose it serves, and the elevation it is released from the orbiter.  Fun stuff.

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