NASA Astronomers Help Launch Grade 5 Students'  Excitement for Space

  • Elementary School
NASA Astronomers Help Launch Grade 5 Students'  Excitement for Space

This year’s Grade 5 Space Conference almost didn’t happen. But, just days before the government directed students to return to learning from home, the Grade 5 Space Conference did happen. And what a success it was!

Each year, as part of their fourth and final Super Unit, “Galaxy V,” Grade 5 students at SSIS explore different parts of our solar system and how they interact with each other.

While teaching Grade 5 at SSIS, current MS Dean of Students Roxanne Amor-Ross, tasked with finding a guest speaker for the Super Unit, was inspired to establish an even richer experience for students to be exposed to people passionate about space. The Grade 5 Space Conference was born.

NASA Astronomers Address Grade 5 Students at Space Conference

The anticipation for this year’s Space Conference was exceptionally high, as it had been canceled last year due to COVID. Also, contributing to the excitement was the fact that two NASA astronomers, Drs. Laurie and Jason Chu would serve as the opening ceremony’s keynote speakers

Drs. Laurie Chu and Jason Chu shared what it’s like to be an astronomer at NASA. (May 5, 2021)

Students sat transfixed as Dr. Laurie Chu shared her exciting work on the 10-billion dollar James Webb telescope, which will be the largest in space when launched in October 2021. Dr. Jason Chu, also an astronomer with NASA, explained how astronomers make discoveries, offering extra encouragement to girls to apply to the field. 

Something for Everyone

To the great benefit of our students, several people even closer to home are also extremely passionate about space. More than twenty teachers and students eagerly volunteered to hold sessions for Grade 5 when Shawna Carnahan, Grade 5 Team Lead and Space Conference organizer, put out a request to our on-campus SSIS community.

The numbers are astronomical as HS IB Econ students explain the cost of space exploration. (May 5, 2021)

To track and reflect on the sessions they attended, Grade 5 students received a handy learning booklet. With session topics ranging from “The Cost of Space Exploration” and “Train Like an Astronaut” to “The Awesome Things That Happen When You Go Super Fast!” and “The Planets: A Musical Journey,” there was something for everyone. 

The Space Conference booklet allowed students to choose their areas of interest and reflect on the sessions they attended. (May 5, 2021)

Integrated Learning

The annual G5 Space Conference is just one part of Grade 5 students’ integrated learning Super Unit, “Galaxy V.” As with all Super Units, “Galaxy V” has incorporated Social Studies, Math, Science, English, Art, Music, PE, and more to ensure students build deep understanding.

For example, as a part of their Math unit, students applied their knowledge of multiplying decimals and fractions to calculate the force of gravity on various planets. And to discover how day and night occur, what causes seasons, and the phases of the moon, students created models (see cover image) which they filmed to document and share their understanding. 

Before schools moved to online learning, Grade 5 student groups recorded the Lego Mindstorm robot they'd programmed completing an assigned mission. 

Building a Colony for Sustainable Life on Mars

So, what’s next for SSIS Grade 5 students now that they know so much about space? Build a colony for sustainable life on Mars, of course!

Some students have created digital colonies, others have made physical models. Here, an aerial sneak-peek of a Grade 5 student group’s Minecraft Mars colony. 

What better way to close out such a rich learning experience than to apply everything you know towards building a model of a Mars colony?

Currently, students are busy at work finishing their colonies and will present them next week online when they have been tasked with convincing classmates that their colony has the most sustainable environment for life on Mars. 

Inspired by the words of Buzz Lightyear, one can say our students are going to infinity and beyond!

Author: Tanya Olander
Communications Officer


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