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Wahoo 8th graders Karina Raney and Sawyer Lavaley work collaboratively to figure out the safest way to land a rover on Mars. The activity was part of a High Ability Learner (HAL) "Design Squad" workshop, sponsored by Metropolitan Community College and Do Space.

Wahoo 4-8 HAL students enjoy hands-on workshop study of space exploration

Lessons & activities focus on obtaining core samples from asteroids, landing rovers on Mars, and using robotic arms to move things in space

What do eggs, potatoes, and cardboard have in common? They can all help students learn about space travel!

Thanks to a grant from the Wahoo Public Schools Foundation, WPS fourth through eighth-grade high ability learner (HAL) students participated in a workshop on Thursday, Jan. 21. 

The Design Squad workshop, where students completed three projects related to space exploration, was facilitated by an instructor through Metropolitan Community College (MCC) and Do Space.

For each project, the MCC instructor first explained the concept, and then she provided general guidelines for a project as well as an objective.

Students were provided with several supplies, including small paper cups, cardboard, string, clips, straws, popsicle sticks, tape, and balloons, but they were not told how to use them. Instead, they were asked to use their own background knowledge and ingenuity to reach the objective. Upon completion of each project, students reflected upon their products and their learning.

The first learning concept was obtaining a core sample from an asteroid. Their challenge was to create a way to obtain a sample from a potato slice. Most students used small paper cups, rubber bands, and straws in various ways and competed to extract the largest sample. Students learned that small modifications can make a large difference.

The second concept was related to safely landing a rover on Mars. After watching a Mars rover landing simulation, their challenge was to design a system in order to safely drop an egg from a height. Students used small paper cups and balloons to cushion the landing in a wide variety of ways, and only two out of twenty eggs met with a messy end. Some students designed additional cushion inside cups, while others designed sturdier external supports.

The third concept was related to using a robotic arm to move things in space. Students were challenged to create a robotic arm that could move, and then further challenged to design a way to pick something up. Students used cardboard, brads, straws, and string to create movement, and tape, cups, or paper clips to pick up an object. One student was even able to design a way to throw the item that had been picked up, and another student created individual moveable fingers.

Overall, students learned about some issues encountered during space exploration, and closer to home, they learned about solving problems and modifying designs when unexpected results occurred. 

“Students used materials in truly innovative ways as they were challenged to solve problems” commented WPS HAL Coordinator Heidi Adams, who coordinated the workshop. “I really enjoyed seeing them learning from each other, borrowing and modifying ideas that they shared. Hopefully this will help them with problem solving in situations both inside and outside of their classrooms.”





Wahoo 4-8 HAL students enjoy hands-on workshop study of space exploration

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