Take an Educational Field Trip to the Solar System

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“Kids to Space Mission Plans: An Educator’s Guide” by Lonnie Schorer and Barbara Sprungman David. Published in 2008 by Apogee Books and weighing in at 204 pages all-in.

This book is designed as an educator’s guide to accompany the book “Kids to Space” (K2S) published back in 2006. As full disclosure, Lonnie approached me at the 2005 ISDC about helping out with the Moon chapter, given my avid interest thereof. Having the Lunar Library at my fingertips allowed me to ensure that I answered each question as accurately as possible. Working with Tom Matula, we worked through all of the questions and I think it turned out well. I can read through it today, knowing so much more about the Moon, and I’m still happy with the answers.

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For some reason, though, most of the copies bought by the bookboxes sat in their warehouses rather than stocking the shelves (I looked at many stores), and so it was mainly through word of mouth that the book sold. Once Amazon tapped into the warehouses of the bookboxes it did eventually sell out as they found small batches here and there, and Apogee is now in the 2nd edition. The book is so good that when Anousheh Ansari spoke at the Frontiers of Flight museum, she had a special session for the youngsters and handed out 100 copies to a lot of really lucky kids. They’ve stayed in the hands of the kids, as they haven’t shown up in the used bookstores.

I seem to recall that one of Lonnie’s hopes with K2S was that it would be used in classrooms to strengthen space education in grades 5-8, an age group generally recognized as the ‘sweet spot’ for inducing a life-long interest in space. In general I don’t think this happened, and the feedback she was getting was that there were no curriculum materials to accompany the book. Apparently, with the way that our educational system has become bureaucratized, teachers need a lot of pre-packaged ‘lesson plans’ that conform to national and local educational standards. So Lonnie teamed up with Barbara Sprungman David, and they went back out into the space community to get the material for a package of lesson plans.

From more than four score contributers, both individuals and organizations, we get the “Kids to Space Mission Plans”. 94 lesson plans, one for each of the chapters in the original K2S. This means that yes, there is even a lesson plan for the chapter ‘Hair & Nails’, contributed by two of our bestest women of space, Marianne Dyson and Anousheh Ansari.

The projects and activities vary widely, from the quick and easy to the complicated and supplies intensive. Each Mission Plan begins with a set of objectives for each student to achieve from the activity, the grade level (mainly 5-8), and which particular subjects are touched upon, such as art, science, mathematics, technology, all of the above, or still others. Next, each mission plan documents the particular “National Education Standards”, such as Science 6b, or Math 1c, followed by the list of materials needed to undertake the mission. Then follows a description of the project for the students. Some are short, only a page long, while several are three pages in length. Interspersed throughout are coloring pages created by kids as part of the original project for K2S.

Since there’s way too much material for a book, there is also a CD included inside the back cover with tons more stuff in an internet browser interface like worksheets, articles, and a large number of weblinks. As with the original K2S, Lonnie has put together an enormous amount of material in a useful and accessible way, making this a valuable reference for any educator who’s teaching about space or wants to incorporate space themes and topics into their classroom. I also note the utility of the book for homeschoolers. I’m aware of the kinds of materials that homeschoolers generally have available from conventional sources, and none of them are as pithy with space goodness as this pair. At $70 for the both of them, it is an investment, but at $0.425 per lesson plan, I think it’s reasonably economical. (Educational materials are not cheap, unfortunately)

It’s fascinating to read the list of contributors, and the diversity reminds me of looking at lists of companies that worked with the space program when it was first starting out. The lists of National Education Standards are dull and somnolence-inducing. The only real complaint I have is that I wish it were easier to find the index pages of each section, which are found on pp. 3-4, 56-57, and 116-117. Without tabbing it takes a bit of flipping back and forth to find each one. I ended up coloring the page edges of each section a different color on my copy. It is spiral bound for ease of use on the photocopier.

This one is certainly a Full Moon, and is in contention for a Best of the Moon 2008.

Special Note: Lonnie and Barbara will be on The Space Show on Monday, August 25th at 14:00-15:30 PST (16:00 – 17:30 CST, 17:00 – 18:30 EST, 22:00 – 23:30 GMT) to speak about the Mission Plans. Archived Here!

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2 thoughts on “Take an Educational Field Trip to the Solar System

  1. Thanks Ken. You get it! and are definitely one of my heroes.

    Your site is now among the 350 Aviation, Space and Astronomy Resources sites listed in a matrix at the end of the CD.

    All best to you and to all others who ‘get it’!
    Lonnie

  2. Thanks Lonnie! Good luck with the show tomorrow. I’ll be certain to add the link once it’s archived.

    Thanks for adding ‘Out of the Cradle’ and the Lunar Library as a reference. It was a lot of fun working on the K2S project, and I’d have to say that you’re the real heroine in all of this, Lonnie, for having the guts to stick with such an amazing project and providing such a valuable resource as a result.

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