There is an excitement that comes with the start of a new school year. Everything is new and fresh; anything is possible. August is the month that many teachers begin putting things in place, and some even start the 2010-11 school year.
Those of us trained in elementary education often use thematic units. Let me suggest that you add or expand an airplane/rocket unit to begin your year. The last two flights of NASA's shuttles are scheduled to launch during the upcoming school calendar. The last flight of Discovery is early in November. The end of the shuttle program comes with Endeavour's blast off slated for February 2011. So you can combine current events with the standard subject areas in your unit.
The NASA educational materials I introduce here are all available as PDF files to be downloaded. Save the files to your computer. Then you can preview and select the pages you wish to print.
The Courage to Soar is a NASA educator guide for grades 3-5. This curriculum is designed to use language arts was the way to cover science content on how things fly. Before you begin printing this guide, I caution you that it is very lengthy due to all the ready-to-use student reading selections and activity sheets. My suggestion is to read the lesson descriptions given at the table of contents so you print only what you need.
NASA Fit Explorer is a curriculum of physical fitness activities for grades 3-5. Students learn that regular physical conditioning is a part of astronaut training. Discussions about personal health and fitness work well with this curriculum. Adding the use of recording tables and graphs adds a math element to your unit.
Rockets is a multi-age curriculum unit containing background information, a timeline of flight, and numerous easy, inexpensive, and engaging activities to teach how rockets work. Many of these activities call for students to design, build, test, improve their model, and re-test. What a wonderful way to introduce students to the habits of engineering!
For those teaching pre-K to grade 2, use lessons from 3,2,1 Lift Off. This guide was written by an astronaut's wife who taught kindergarten. The lessons use rockets and the International Space Station as a way to teach many early education skills.
Finally, bookmark and refer to NASA's web site, www.nasa.gov, for updates to launch information and links to various online activities and opportunities. Within the education section, materials are grouped for students and educators and further sorted by grade levels.
With these NASA materials you are "GO" to launch another exciting year of learning.