The solar system lesson!

Today was L’s presentation in the sixth grade classroom (here’s the first post detailing her process of getting ready for this presentation). Oh my goodness. I got my ab workout for the day through laughter!

When we decided that today was “the day” for the lesson, she decided she needed a formal lesson plan. She needed to plot out what she was going to do and when she was going to do it. I opened a Word document just in time to capture her stating what she would say first to the students:

I am going to teach you about the solar system today. First, I will tell you that Pluto’s not a planet. Then we’re going to watch How Many Planets on the screen. And then we’re going to go on our solar system walk. We will see how far it is from the sun all the way to Pluto.

Wow! As a teacher educator, I have to say that this is a fairly nice job setting the stage for the learning that’s going to come. She then decided that she was worried. She had 11 objects picked out (Sun, 8 planets, asteroid belt, and Pluto). If we had 11 of the students read those facts, what would the other students be able to do? Yes, it was in four-year-old speak, but she essentially decided that it would be best if each student were able to play a hands-on role to ensure they were all engaged. Of course!

We did some math and realized that since there were two facts on each of the 11 cards, if one student each read the facts, we would have have jobs for 22 students. We added in a measurer and a chalker to get to 24 students. We then decided that we’d have 4 students reading which objects we were at and generally giving help. We made a chart summarizing this information

We then decided that explaining the scale was important. I had to help with the math, but here was the script she decided on:

We are going to measure 1 foot for every 1 million miles. If you were driving 60 miles per hour, it would take 16,667 hours to drive 1 million miles. That’s driving for 694 days without stopping for gas or to sleep or go potty!

True that, kiddo. We learned that the rolling measuring tape we were going to use was in meters! Argh! Ok, another quick math lesson which built on the idea that when we did it at home, we measured in sidewalk squares which were about 5 feet. This is the paragraph she added to the script:

There are 3 and a quarter feet in each meter. Our walking stick uses meters so we will be doing our walk in meters. Our distances are good estimates.

Ok, the final thing was to help her make sense of what she wanted the students to learn about during the walk. I asked her to think about how we thought of questions after we were done reading a new book to help us understand the book. She decided on three questions for the students to use for reflection after the solar system walk:

  • What did you think about our solar system walk?
  • What did you notice about our solar system walk?
  • What did you learn from our solar system walk?

Again, these seem like pretty decent reflection questions at the end of a lesson!

So, we were off to the school. After the requisite ooh-ing and aah-ing, she began her lesson. She was at the front of the room and told the students about Pluto (sorry for the x-ray effect, but still trying to protect her privacy!).

She then showed them (one of) her favorite They Might Be Giants videos. After assigning everyone jobs and passing out her fact cards, we began our walk.

Things went swimmingly. She led the discussion fairly well (with some prompting from mom) and increasingly needed to be carried (the solar system is BIG!). Beyond that, she did an excellent job. She was engaged and thoughtful and the kids actually walked away with a better grasp of just how much SPACE there is in space.

One of my favorite take-aways from the day is this shot of her walking with the big kids. She is so confident and secure when talking with others about science. I hope to build on that as she continues to learn how to interact with others on a variety of topics and across settings. My little love… =)

My other favorite moment during this entire giggle-fest was when a student asked her if she knew what Saturn’s rings were made of. She replied, “Ice and dust, that’s why the answer is B and D.”

I couldn’t figure out what she meant. I said, “Ice and dust, right. What’s the other part?”

Very clearly, she said, “That’s why the answer is B and D.”

Again, I started to clarify, but then I remembered that we’d read a book once. A month or so ago. It had multiple choice questions in the back of it.

The book

The book

Now, it turns out that the answer was “D”, which was “B and C”, so there was a slight misremembering happening. However, of course. Of course you remembered that thing we did that one time awhile ago…

This is why I’m exhausted, folks. Happy, but exhausted!


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