- Union County Public Schools
Cuthbertson and East Union Middle students walk on the moon -- without ever leaving their school
Why learn about space exploration sitting at a classroom desk when you can actually walk on the moon?
This fall, hundreds of Cuthbertson Middle and East Union Middle sixth graders did just that, courtesy of a unique and engaging curriculum tied to the 25ft x 25ft Giant Moon Map.
As part of the STEAM 3 Collaboration, the Aldrin Family Foundation’s ShareSpace Education program provided the groundbreaking Giant Moon Map to UCPS while Wingate University created hands-on lessons designed for students to creatively solve a variety of real-world space exploration problems.
Cuthbertson Middle’s focus on engineering and East Union Middle’s focus on agriculture technology – two rapidly growing industries which will be integral to space exploration in the future – made the schools perfect for piloting the map. During the class, the students temporarily “left their world behind” to learn about space missions, moon geography, engineering and sustaining life on the moon and more.
When creating the collaborative lessons -- which also included discussion about future careers related to outer space – Wingate University visiting instructor Rebecca Cottenoir said their goal was never to just teach the content. Instead, it was to encourage the students to have a higher level of critical thinking and problem identification.
“That is key when learning about outer space because you need to identify future problems,” she said. “Taking it a step further, we would like them to think of creative solutions.”
In a world where technology advancements occur at a breakneck speed, the ability to adapt quickly, think critically, work in collaborative groups and creatively solve real world problems are highly sought after skills by employers in nearly every industry.
That’s why the Moon Map lessons are so important, UCPS Director of Innovation and EdTech Casey Rimmer said, because it encourages those skills, engages students and brings the scientific concepts alive.
“Engagement is much higher when we have students up out of their seats, interacting with each other and interacting with the content. They’re working in collaborative groups and practicing discourse to find the answers,” she said. “We wanted to pull them out of the content so they can remember the scientific concepts behind what we know about the moon.”
With the Giant Moon Map only spending a few more weeks at East Union Middle throughout October, Rimmer added, plans are already in the works to share the map with other sixth grade science classes throughout the district.
“Ultimately, I can’t wait until these students walk outside and look at the moon and think about how it got there, how it was formed and the possibility they can actually go up there -- or even be involved with working with people who will go to the moon,” said ShareSpace Education Executive Director Jim Christenson. “What’s really important to us is that kids do well, and that we can do things that help and inspire them.”
Click the video below to see the students in action and learn more about the STEAM 3 Collaborative: