Washington Students Learn More About Comets Through Space Missions

“Did you know that a comet’s tail is made of ice?” asked Washington Middle School teacher Deb Rein. “Does anyone know what the process is called when making a comet?”

“Sublimation,” said one student.

“That’s correct. Can everyone say sublimation? Now, what is a comet made of?”

“Mostly gases, carbon dioxide,” said another student.

Mrs. Rein was conducting the comet-making session for sixth grade Team Brainstormers. Mrs. Rein created the comet from dry ice to give students a firsthand look at a comet. The creation of the comet was just one of many activities that Team Brainstormers teachers Cathy Pitts and Joel Sopak conducted before their trip to the Dresser-Rand Challenger Learning Center in Allegany, NY to “Rendezvous with Comet Halley.” Special education teacher Jill Smeraldo and paraprofessional, Kim Rizzo also joined Team Brainstormers on the trip.

Washington Middle School sixth graders, Xavier Guadarrama and Luis Cora Colon both agreed that, “Learning what the comets consisted of was quite interesting since we had no idea that the comets consisted of normal everyday materials such as rocks, dust particles, and ice.” Both students enjoyed Mrs. Rein’s demonstration – especially when they got to see what the comet looked like firsthand.

Students prepared for the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) space mission by learning about comets, space, and the various aspects of math, technology, chemistry, and physics involved for the rendezvous with Comet Halley. They also worked with acids and bases, learned about pH, used and read gauges and graduated cylinders, and listened to and followed directions. All of these activities pertained to certain tasks that students were required to perform as “jobs” at the Challenger Learning Center as part of the space mission.

Students learned about the expectations and requirements of each “job” performed by teams. Students completed job applications to apply for the job they felt best suited for based on their academic abilities and personal skills The objective of the mission at the Challenger Learning Center was to work in teams to navigate the spacecraft close enough to Comet Halley to launch a probe into its tail.

During the field trip, students worked in both Mission Control and in the Spacelab on the following teams: Communications Team, Data Team, Navigation Team, Medical Team, Remote Team, Life Support Team, Isolation Team and the Probe Team. Students also had an opportunity to build a rocket.

Taylor Magee liked her job on the Navigation Team. “I liked the communications part of the job because it was interesting. I got to work together with my partner, Caleb Cartwright, to find the correct coordinates to launch the probe into Comet Halley. We worked together well to do our job. I was so excited when we plotted the correct X, Y coordinates and then prepared to launch the probe!”

Washington School’s Team Success and The Pack, along with all sixth grade Jamestown Public Schools students, will

posted on 06/10/2014 - filed under: Academics, Common Core, Middle School, Science, Spotlight, Students, teachers, Technology