Reflecting on Our Year of Learning Like an Astronaut

Last year we embarked on a whole school inquiry inspired by Chris Hadfield’s book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.

I’ve written two other blog posts about this:

  1. Our Students are Learning Like Astronauts
  2. Building a Learning Culture Through a Whole School Inquiry

Do your students want to go to space?

Since I’ve received a number of notes from other schools who want to go to space, I thought I would post a summary of all the resources we developed for this project:

So how did it go?

Amazing. This project¬†was engaging, memorable, and fun. The students regularly surprised me. One day I put up questions they had generated about space all over the school. Another day I came to school and some of the questions had been answered. Students challenged each other to find all the answers. Students were reading and interacting with hallways nearly every day. I found students walking the halls with clipboards, students stopping to read about Venus on the way to the drinking fountain, and students, huddled around questions debating possible answers. From Kindergarten to Grade 6, students were highly engaged. Our Grade 7 and 8s didn’t really buy in and I’m not sure why but the rest of the school was space-obsessed for the year.

For our final mission we went to space. Classrooms were transformed into planets, experiential learning rooms. Students used the arts, technology, science, and active cooperative games to teach the school. Students travelled from planet to planet in mixed-grade groups. It was an exciting way to end our project.

One day a planet fell off our bulletin board. A student noticed right away. He asked many of the staff if something had happened, had the planet been removed from the solar system? He was very concerned. A week or so later he was the first to notice the planet had returned safely. Students were paying attention–haha!

What did we learn?

  • Students love to learn together.
  • Sharing a learning focus K-8 was fun.
  • Students learned a lot about space and a lot about learning.
  • A mission a month was too many so we switched to a slower pace.
  • The robot mission was the most engaging.
  • A group of students from Gr 1-8 were responsible for all the feedback for every challenge–this was such a rich experience for all of us.
  • It was important to give classes the option to participate for each challenge. Each challenge was an invitation for students. Staff needed to know this wasn’t about putting any pressure on–if students were driving the learning then great. If not, then continue with the regularly scheduled curriculum.

I hope this is useful for you–please let us know how your astronaut project goes!


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