In their Moon, Mars and Beyond simulation, the students were afforded
the opportunity to put their math and critical thinking skills to the test with
the help of their classroom teacher and The Challenger Learning Center of
Wheeling, WV in a distance learning opportunity that was both challenging and
fun. Before spring break, Sue Pate's third grade classroom found
themselves frantically determining coordinates and deftly planning space meals
for astronauts as the students strove to rescue a stranded spaceship from
The Challenger Learning Center describes the project on their website: In Moon, Mars, and Beyond, students are organized into five planet teams to help NASA locate and rescue a lost spaceship that is orbiting one of the outer planets. Each team consists of cargo, navigation, and transmissions specialists. The cargo specialists calculate the number of days for a round trip to their planet and the amount of food, water, and oxygen needed for the rescue trip. The navigation specialists will plot coordinates to help get some location information on the lost spaceship. The transmissions specialists decode messages that give them clues about the location of the spaceship over the last five days. All teams work together using information they receive to determine where the lost ship is located. The communications team relays all information to mission control so that a rescue ship with all the loaded cargo can be launched from our base on Mars to that planet.
Mrs. Pate prepared her students with lessons and scenarios weeks before the simulated launch. Students completed worksheets, held discussions, learned about the five planets involved in the mission, practiced math calculations and created posters in preparation for the mission. On mission day, five classroom parents joined Mrs. Pate and the county computer curriculum specialists - Dale Slack, Dan McKneely and Kim Sigman - in support of the students and their efforts. The Challenger Learning Center provided a real time NASA engineer via Skype who gave the students verbal directions, accepted and verified all computations and provided support and encouragement to the class.
The end result was a success! The students effectively completed each task and determined the correct location of the crippled space craft. The Challenger Learning Center showed video clips of the "rescue" which helped the students realize their accomplishments.
"I thought this was really fun. Let's do it again!" quipped several of the students.
"I know I was doing math, but it didn't really feel like a math class," smiled another.
"This was hard work," one student said, while another was heard saying, "That was scary. I didn't want to lose the astronauts."
Mrs. Pate wishes to give a big thanks to her volunteer parents. Their help was vital and very helpful to the mission.