TEACHERS! What do you do with that last 40 minutes of class at the end of the week on a Friday? You may have thoughts like, “I can’t wait until this week is over! I’m exhausted and these kid are driving me nuts!” Well, help has arrived. End the week with a “Mission Accomplished” feeling, knowing your students have something to look forward to on Fridays using NASA educational resources. It meets all the required standards across the content areas! I will share what I do; and I am convinced you can do this, too!
My name is Pam Leestma, and I’m a 2nd grade teacher at Valley Christian Elementary School in Bellflower, CA. In May of 2017, (and for the past 10 years), my 2nd graders and Mr. Nick Vander Dussen’s 6th graders from my school presented their Space Station models to NASA’s Digital Learning Network (DLN) expert, Michael Hare at Johnson Space Center. Our “Space Buddies” were divided into six working groups. After meeting almost every Friday throughout the year, which we called “NASA Fridays,” we learned about space related topics and living and working on the International Space Station. We ended the year with culminating activities which included planning our Space Station models, building them with parent help, using lots of “junk”, soda bottles, and hot glue guns for the modules, deciding, and then practicing what part of the model each student would share about with the NASA expert. “NASA Day” arrived and the “Space Buddies” presented their six models, learned more about the International Space Station, had a time of Q&A, and saw LIVE images of the earth from the ISS! It was “Mission Accomplished!” for all the students and they can now claim, “We talked to NASA!”
I am inviting you to try having your own “Space Buddies.” Find a class at your school to connect with! During the year, “NASA Fridays” can be simple like watching a short video clip of living and working on the International Space Station or doing a hands-on activity. It is always a good idea to check the NASA site for the most current events going on in Space and sometimes you can choose the NASA update for your time together. “Space to Ground” is a wonderful, 2-3 minute weekly update of activities.
The exciting resource that you can participate in right now is the “Year of Education on Station.” STEM on Station is highlighting teacher Joe Acaba’s mission currently on the ISS as well as teacher Rickey Arnold’s flight in the Spring of 2018.
I ALWAYS check the NASA main page and click on NASA TV, too. You can watch for great programing to share or watch a thrilling, LIVE launch if it is during school hours. Sometimes even a spacewalk which my class watched LIVE of Joe Acaba, is a blast!
“Spot the Station” brings much excitement to my students, when they can watch a visible pass of the ISS fly over. Enter your location and you can sign up for alerts of when the ISS will fly over your area. We wave at Joe Acaba when we see it and I have the students send me pictures of their famiy and friends watching it and even kid’s sports teams are stopping at practice to “ooo and aww!”
The goal of “NASA Friday’s” gives the children a reason to be together and learn about space related events using NASA resources! When you do something special, make sure to take pictures of your activities! It is evidence of using STEM related topics using NASA resources! You need a NASA media release with parent permission if you are going to share these pictures with NASA education social media. They love your pictures and so appreciate it, proving their programs have an impact on this next generation of space explorers!
I have done other activities using NASA resources and you may want to learn more about them in this NASA article – “The T in STEM.”
As this school year begins, consider launching NASA STEM resources into your curriculum!
Pam Leestma – 2nd grade teacher
NASA Excellence in Teaching Award
National American Star of Teaching Award
Valley Christian Elementary School – 17408 Grand Ave. Bellflower, CA 90706
school: 562/920-9902 email@example.com