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6-8 | Science & Tech | Hands on activities

My Classroom Innovation

Six years ago, I wrote and won a competitive application for the NASA Explorer School program. My innovative use of space science as a tool for engagement cuts across many areas of science. In addition to NASA, I use many other resources including PBS, NOAA, and NOVA as tools for engagement--- with a space science theme. Students engage in rocketry and manipulate variables such as mass and trajectory angle to predict distance achieved; lead academic discourse with astronomers, astronauts, and test pilots; design experiments to be flown aboard sounding rockets; and more. One group of students tested the effects of G-forces on the integrity of waterproof watches while another examined the effect of microgravity on the rate of chemical reactions. Recently my students used their understanding of basic physics to generate their own investigations about astronomical phenomena. They used PBS resources, including “Galaxy Sorting” and “Jewels of the Night” to learn about the tools for astronomical studies. They devised ways (i.e. computer simulations, models, ImageJ, and satellite imagery) to study “out-of-reach” items such as the Earth, moon, and sun. They are constantly challenged to use science as an explanation and argument and to use evidence for those arguments and explanations.

How Students were Engaged

The attached video (made for an award that we won) exemplifies the innovation in my classroom. All activities, events, and pictures are of my students engaged in cutting-edge science. My students are not passive observers of science, rather, they ARE scientists. This year, I am working with a group of students in studying variability in an active galactic nucleus in order to place limits on the dust distribution around its nucleus. They are using their knowledge of physics, a graphical analysis program, reducing data, and collaborating with other students to generate a scientific report for publication.

PBS Program/Content Used

Galaxy Sorting