Our middle school students have been studying the second half of the 20th century this year. One topic they have studied in-depth recently has been the development and science of the space program. Since our curriculum is comprised of integrated thematic units, when students explore space and the space program, they are doing so via a social studies lens, math and science and the arts. I would like to share just a few examples of how our students have gained a greater understanding of such an important historical and modern aspect of our society.
Some students studied space as it related to issues of global population growth and sustainability. Students were given a “new space race” design challenge. They had to create a space colony that could support human life on Mars. In order to do this, they had to research the habitat of Mars and what is required to sustain human life. Then, they constructed a model to present to their classmates and at assembly. As you’ll see, the students came up with some very creative approaches!
Class 72 students with Ms. King and Mrs. Gonzalez had their own unique design challenge. They were exploring both science fact and science fiction. Students weaved their new science learning with creative storytelling to produce an 8-minute interactive space simulation. This involved building a space station in their classroom that was large enough to seat two pilots and eight passengers. Class content that informed their story included, atmosphere, star systems, planetary science, asteroids, comets, the Oort Cloud, bioluminescence and ecosystems. Parents, faculty and students from other classes all visited and enjoyed the show! Passengers were flying through space, learning about various astronomical objects and phenomena when system failure caused the shuttle to make an emergency landing on an unknown planet. From there, even more adventure ensued!
NASA Astronaut Visits Assets
In addition to all of the student projects, we were honored to welcome Dr. Kjell Lindgren to our school. We send a big mahalo to Assets parent, Ruth Hashisaka Fukuyama, as well as Claude Onizuka and the Onizuka Memorial Committee for helping arrange Dr. Lindgren’s visit.
Dr. Lindgren is an active NASA astronaut who flew on Expedition 44/45. While on campus, he shared with our middle school students and teachers his journey of how he became one of the few people in the country selected to become an astronaut. Dr. Lindgren stressed the importance of setting goals and not letting barriers stop the pursuit of those goals. He was able to share some personal anecdotes of when it seemed like his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut was being ripped from him, like when he was incorrectly diagnosed with asthma, but how we continued down an alternate path toward his goal. Dr. Lindgren also shared extraordinary video and stories from his 141 days in space. In speaking with Dr. Lindgren after the event, he commented on how smart our students are and what great questions they asked. It’s true, the students asked thoughtful scientific and personal questions during the presentation. On Dr. Lindgren’s way out, the kids also snuck in some hard-hitting questions like, better movie: Gravity or The Martian (The Martian) and Star Wars or Star Trek (Star Wars).
It’s not everyday you get the opportunity to meet and talk with someone who has been to space, let alone conducted two spacewalks. It truly was one of the most remarkable presentations that I have ever seen.
We were honored at the end of the presentation when Dr. Lindgren presented us with a poster that is addressed to Assets School from the International Space Station crew of Expedition 44/45, signed, containing photos of the four major milestones of their expedition.
About the Author
Ryan Masa is the K-8 Principal at Assets School in Honolulu, Hawaii