Not many people can say they have been to outer space, but the kindergartners at Gateway School recently became members of that select group – all without leaving their classroom. As part of a space exploration unit, Gateway’s kindergarteners prepared themselves for an imaginary trip to the International Space Station. In the weeks leading up to the launch, Gateway’s kindergarteners thought about the question, “How can we, as astronauts, prepare for a visit to the space station?”
Buck Institute for Education’s guidelines for Project Based Learning informs the unit, which fits into a larger theme of Identity Awareness where students study their location in relation to the world. Teacher Sarah Hernandez guided students through several elements of Project Based Learning, including communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking skills.
The most meaningful aspect of the unit, according to Teacher Sarah, were the research presentations given before the launch day. Working in pairs, each group focused on a guiding question, such as, “What do astronauts eat in space?” To answer that question, they brainstormed answers, utilized the classroom iPads, and created a poster of their findings. Afterwards, each group presented to the class while practicing good public speaking skills.
“While the day of the actual launch was spectacular, it was the steps that we went through to prepare for our launch that were truly remarkable,” said Teacher Sarah.
Once in zero gravity, the class simulated unbuckling from their seats and floating around in the space station. They ate snacks that they had carefully planned in advance, and wrote down their observations in their journals. When it was time to return to earth, they climbed in the return capsule modeled after their research.
In this unit, Gateway School’s kindergarteners not only used their imaginations, but also improved their communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking skills in the process.