“Mission Control, this is Spacecraft Challenger. I have a question for the Communications Team,” asked a “reporter” at a Mock Press Conference.
“What prior skills did you have to help you succeed in this job?” asked Mission Control.
“Skills that helped me succeed in the Communications Team included: public speaking, listening, accurate reading, prioritizing messages, interpreting documents, critical thinking and to have an outgoing personality,” said a Communications Team member.
The mock press conference was held as the culminating activity of a Washington Middle School sixth grade space unit, which included lessons in science, math, ELA and social studies in Deb Rein, Jen Lachajczyk, Lisa Peterson, Karen Bjorkholm-Leeper, Karen Coccagnia and Shane Knapp’s classes. Fellow students acted as media representatives asking questions regarding the space unit and field trip to the Challenger Space Center in Allegany, NY. To coordinate teams, students were given “job applications” to determine their interests and strengths. Jobs included: Probe Team, Remote Team, Medical Team, Navigation Team, Communication Team, Life Support Team, Data Team and the Isolation Team. Washington teachers were given a few required lessons and as team also researched NASA’s website to prepare lesssons for the students.
“This type of integrated experience taps into our students’ strengths and also stretches them to try new activities, like public speaking,” said Mrs. Rein. “Students absorb information in different ways and by using an integrated unit, we give them the opportunity to use and develop, new strengths. Students learned valuable lessons about working together and using their critical thinking skills. They also discovered that acting quickly in a serious situation requires focus and using a teammate as a resource is not only okay, but it is a required life skill.”
JPS Science Coordinator, Dave Currie, supplied the opportunity for the visit to the Challenger Learning Center. The Washington teachers collaborated during their science and ELA PLC time period to create an enhanced sixth grade astronomy unit. Along with classroom instruction in the solar system and space, they also learned about astronaut’s equipment, how previous space missions have been important and yet dangerous, and why the U.S. must continue to explore new resources. At the Challenger Learning Center, students became astronauts for the day and were expected to complete duties as if they were actually in space. Student manned a flight simulator, where they were given very specific information and instructions on TASK Cards to read and complete for a successful mission. They also ran Mission Control and communicated with other team members in the space shuttle simulator.
The Challenger Space Center’s purpose is to educate students and honor the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster that occurred on January 28, 1986, when Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members.
“I loved the unit because it showed you what it is really like being an astronaut,” said sixth grader Asha DeHarder. “You can listen to your teacher tell you about the solar system and what an astronaut does, but to really become an astronaut for a day and see firsthand how they do their job was so interesting and will help me remember the information I learned. It was also really cool to try to the flight simulator at the Center.”