|50 Years of Space Exploration|
by National Geographic
In a traditional "pick a planet" project, students are focused on finding facts about an object in our solar system. I like to turn the process around so that it reflects more of an inquiry-based, process-of-science research project. Our essential research question becomes, "What has human space exploration taught us about our solar system?" The emphasis of the project is placed on how we humans struggle to design, build, launch, navigate, and operate spacecraft to investigate the mysteries of our solar system. Instead of just looking up a bunch of facts, I ask students to create a system of research questions to ask about their chosen spacecraft and its mission target, then embark on their research utilizing a variety of incredible primary resources (mainly from NASA, and for which I create a classroom project web page as a launching area).
An excellent research project includes the following elements:
- Name, date, scientific purpose, and major scientific discoveries of the spacecraft mission
- Realistic, three-dimensional model of the spacecraft (using Earth-friendly materials)
- Basic information about the scientific instruments on the spacecraft: what they are, what they do, how they work, what they measure, etc. explained in plain language
- Scientific data, information, and details about the solar system object visited: position/location in the solar system, distance from Sun, diameter, mass, composition, rotation/revolution data, atmosphere/temperature data, moons/rings data, etc. explained in plain language and using the metric system
- Other unique, interesting data and information about your object: can include non-scientific things such as stories, folklore, mythology, poetry, artwork, etc.
- A caption and credit next to every image borrowed from the internet as well as a complete list of scientifically diverse references in a bibliography (so that we respect others and their copyrights)