High fives

I don’t think I’ve ever given a student high fives for completing a worksheet. However, we did lots of celebrating today when my Grade 9 Vocational Science students not only completed their deep space models, but also created an Educreations video podcast that explained the parts of the model and reflected on the challenge.

We started the unit with a brief inquiry on, “What makes a star a star?” (modified from here in the Investigation Pack.)  Each student was given a story and fact sheet about a visiting a specific type of star and they were asked to make note of the star’s characteristics (size, colour, temperature, etc.). After sharing, the group was supposed to make a list of properties of a star. Although the students read and learned about their star, they were reluctant to share with their group, so we completed the activity as a whole class.  Then we looked at a black hole and determined that it was not a star.

Next the students watched a video on the different types of space features, chose one to model and made teams. After researching the characteristics of the space feature in library books and on the internet, they made a sketch of their model and a list of materials needed.

Several periods of model building followed. I found that the students seemed skeptical at first–and more than a little frustrated–and had a hard time envisioning how to create the model. I was worried that they couldn’t do it, but I had read about enough teachers’ experiences with project-based learning to keep moving forward. I showed space videos for about 15 minutes of every class to focus on the features.

When I showed the students the craft materials I bought from the dollar store (glitter, plastic gems, wire mesh, metal scrubbies, sparkly ribbon, pipe cleaners, etc.), I could see the light bulbs going off. I wish I could post all the students’ models, but here is a sampling.

Once the models were finished, the groups answered questions on their model and the creation process, created scripts from their answers, took pictures of the model and put it all together in an Educreations “podcast.”

Pinwheel Galaxy

Life Cycle of a Star

In conversations with students, I was surprised to hear how much the they knew about their feature–the minute details of the big bang, the swirling clouds of gas around a black hole and the deadly gases trapped in the dust and ice of a comet. I saw all the students engaged and on task.

Glitter. It makes everything better!