Journey into space
Here is a fun way to discover your students’ prior knowledge about SPACE!
Children generally have a natural curiosity about the world around them. They enjoy finding out things for themselves and love to ask ‘why’ questions about what they see.
At the beginning of a new science unit, many teachers conduct ‘brainstorms’ or complete ‘What we already know’ charts with the class. The following activity is an interactive way to discover your students’ prior knowledge (and often misconceptions) about space and the universe. The activity allows students to be involved, role-play, use their imaginations and develop a positive attitude towards science.
Prior to the lesson:
Move the tables to the side of the room and position the chairs so that they are equally spaced. For a more realistic experience, students can make astronaut’s helmets out of cardboard boxes and aluminium foil. Have the helmets positioned on the chairs for the ‘astronauts’ to put on as they enter their spacecraft.
If available, have an adult helper record comments by the students that are of interest or are misconceptions. These comments can be used when programming a unit about space or to adjust a current program to suit the needs of the particular class.
Science Topic – Space
- When students enter the classroom, inform them that they will be leaving the school today as they have been assigned a mission to explore space.
- Students need to go to their spacecraft and strap themselves into their chairs ready for take off. (Students walk in and lie on the floor facing their chair with their legs up on the seat as though they are sitting vertically in a rocket.)
- Tell the students to hold their controls and start their spacecraft. Begin the count down. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Blast off! Students make the appropriate noises as though their spacecraft is leaving the Earth.
- Tell the class that the take off was successful and they are now leaving earth. Ask the question: What can you see? (Birds/clouds/rainbows/the atmosphere/the ozone layer etc.)
- Announce to the astronauts that they have reached space. What can they see? (Stars/black holes/meteorites/comets/satellites/space junk/UFOs/aliens/planets – which ones? etc.)
- They are now travelling past the moon. What does it look like? (Grey/craters/like cheese/a man’s face/light side and a dark side/flags on it etc.)
- All of a sudden, the students’ spacecraft are filled with light. Tell the class that they must shield their eyes as they have travelled too close to the Sun. The students must quickly steer away from the sun to save their craft from melting. What can they feel? (Warmth/heat)
- The spacecraft continue to travel away from the sun. Which planets are they passing? What do they look like? (Away from the sun – Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto.)
- Finish the lesson by directing the astronauts to fly their spacecraft back to Earth. A capsule containing the astronauts will be dispatched and land on Earth (where?) using a large parachute to slow its fall.
- Congratulate the astronauts on a successful mission!