Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Our First Day of School was Out of this World

This week we were supposed to enjoy one final family vacation at the beach with los abuelos before starting back to school. Unfortunately, health issues caused a change of plans and my parents were unable to fly out. So I decided to go ahead and start school so we could A) get back on a schedule, and B) get a head start since we have other vacations planned for this fall.

But all my carefully thought out lesson plans for our first day went flying out the window - to Mars! With the landing of the Curiosity, I decided this was too good of an opportunity to miss, so instead, we spent the morning learning about the planets (specifically, Mars), writing up questions, creating a KWL chart, watching the JPL videos on the mission, and looking at the first pictures from Mars. Both my kids can now tell you with great detail exactly how they Curiosity landed and what it is doing now!

But perhaps my children's favorite activity was creating their own rovers. I expected them to use their legos to build the rovers, but instead, they preferred to use materials they found around the house. Amazingly, they spent the entire afternoon and evening building their rovers and then taking them outside to explore their planet. 

The design process included some groans, frowns, and agonized shouts when certain parts wouldn't stay put; Legs fell off, "cameras" toppled over, and the whole rover tilted when lifted by "ropes." When my daughter came inside on the verge of tears, I helped by asking questions like: Why do you think this is falling off? What can we do differently? Together we started over and tried not only using some different lighter materials, but also focused on the order that we attached the parts (legs first!) so that we had a good foundation. 

If you'd like to watch some of the videos that we did, or print one of the worksheets we used, take a look at my Mars Study board or my Space Crafts board on Pinterest.

Here's how their rovers turned out -


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