Satellites, Orbits and STK

NASA Explorer Schools educator Jeffrey Kaloostian and students from T.R. Robinson High School completed an exciting lesson, “Satellites, Orbits and STK.” (STK stands for Satellite Tool Kit.) Students working in pairs selected and researched an operating NASA satellite, then built a “junk” replica from paper towel tubes, string, balsa wood and other items. The student teams produced a computer presentation about the mission and developed an animation showing the satellite’s orbit with classical orbital elements.

Get a copy of Kaloostian’s lesson, in NEON.

NES Teacher Field Tests Activities for NASA

NASA Explorer Schools educator Cheryl May from Lebanon Middle School in Lebanon, Ky., was one of 13 educators who attended the NASA Explorer Schools’ GAVRT, or Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope, Summer recognition workshop at the Lewis Center in Apple Valley, Calif., from July 1723, 2011. May, along with the other NES teachers, learned the basics of radio astronomy and how to control the 34-meter Goldstone Radio Telescope through the Internet so students can use the telescope for their own research projects. 

Many opportunities were presented to the educators throughout this workshop. May signed on to test lessons and activities from a yet-to-be-published Juno Mission Activities Guide. With the help of teachers like May, and her students, the creators of the guide can determine how accurate and helpful their guide will be in the classroom. One of the lessons, “Interior Inferring,” has students discover the difference between evidence and inference. The students then complete a rubric and send their reviews of the activities back to the creators of the Juno Mission Workbook.

For more information about the NES GAVRT recognition workshop, visit

Link to the NASA Explorer Schools Home Page.

Family Science Night Emphasizes NASA's Continuing Mission

NASA Explorer Schools educator Barbara Dire from Forest Heights Elementary School led her school through another successful NASA Family Science Night. Forest Heights starts each school year with this event to introduce new families to NASA and rekindle the NASA spark. This year they had a Digital Learning Network session with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory located in Pasadena, Calif. The event stressed to the families that NASA still has a mission. Most of the parents thought the last shuttle mission meant the end of NASA. After the DLN session, students had a lot of fun constructing rockets. There were 212 students, parents and teachers present at this very successful NASA Family Science Night.

A Cross-discipline Unit Using Radio Jove

Radio Jove LogoVin Urbanowski, NASA Explorer Schools educator from the Academy of Information Technology & Engineering in Stamford, Conn., created a lesson, The Engineer Who Became an Artist: A Radio Jove-Inspired Unit Connecting STEM, Music and History. The lesson reinforces radio concepts by tracing the development of radio, in both radio astronomy and radio communications and helps students acquire familiarity with the audio signatures of various phenomena and operations.

For more information and to download a copy of Urbanowski’s lesson, go to the NEON article, A Cross-discipline Unit Using Radio Jove.

GAVRT Lesson Idea

Radio telescopeAfter attending the NASA Explorer Schools Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope Summer Experience, educators Kaci Hines, Cheryl May, Nancy Guillory and Donna Rand created a lesson that allows their students to control the GAVRT telescope from their classroom. Their lesson challenges students to determine the temperature of Jupiter by using the telescope. Three major tasks are involved in manipulating the telescope and acquiring accurate data: calibrating, scanning and recording data. Their lesson divides students into three separate groups to let each group learn the different tasks required to operate the telescope.

For more information and images, go to the NES GAVRT event page in Facebook or the GAVRT article in NEON.

Request for Universal Time Lesson Plans

Map of Earth showing day and nightPeople in many countries throughout the world use satellite images and data. It’s important to be able to determine the exact time a picture was taken or data collected. To meet this need, satellites use a time stamp standard for tagging images and data — Universal Time, referred to as UT; or Zulu Time, designated by the letter Z; or Greenwich Mean Time, abbreviated as GMT. All three designations refer to the same time. The recorded time is the time at the 0º line of longitude, which runs through Greenwich, England.

When a satellite picture is taken or data set collected, it is logged according to traditional military notation for time in the 24-hundred hour notation, based on the time at 0º longitude.

This subject offers the potential for student investigations, mathematics activities and history lessons.

Share with other educators any time-related lesson plans you have used with your students by replying to the UNIVERSAL TIME posting in the Satellite Meteorology forum in NEON. 

Soda Bottle Rocket — Design, Build and Test a Model Rocket

Soda bottle rocket ready to launchHere is a great student activity for the springtime — have your students construct and launch a soda bottle rocket. This fun but highly educational activity demonstrates Newton’s Laws of Motion. Find out about other ways you can challenge your students by doing some of the other extensions to the Lunar Nautics module.

To find out more about this and other Lunar Nautics lessons, read the article in NEON.

Building and Dropping Mars Landers — Six Minutes of Terror

Cartoon: Shuttle orbiting Earth

Students in Donna Rand’s class at East Hartford-Glastonbury Elementary Magnet School conducted an activity called Building & Dropping Mars Landers — 6 Minutes of Terror. To introduce the activity, students watched the NASA video “Six Minutes of Terror.” Rand’s fourth-grade students worked in teams to design and build Mars landers that contained a glass ornament payload. The landers were dropped from the gym ceiling. The goal of the activity was to deliver the ornament safely to the gym floor.

This activity is now a part of Rand’s Force and Motion science unit. 

For pictures and video go to the “Six Minutes of Terror” article in NEON

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

An Idea for a Lunar Rover Project

Clarendon Elementary SchoolPatricia Smeyers, a teacher from Secaucus Board of Education, has a great idea for a Lunar Rover Project. Students design a new lunar rover for the future. They create their designs using cloud-based 3-D modeling software and present their engineered 3-D model and research.

The students used an online educational collaborative website to create their presentation and used a wikispace to house their projects.

This activity reinforces the best practice — use of technology to facilitate student collaboration — while incorporating NES materials and NASA opportunities. 

Read the article in NEON to find out about specific websites and programs supporting the educational goals of this project.

Barrett Elementary School Wins First Prize in Spaced Out Sports Challenge

News flash from Kate Waller Barrett Elementary School’s Project Discovery in Arlington, Va.

Number 1 graphicBarrett’s NASA Save the Earth team won first prize in the Spaced Out Sports Challenge Contest! NASA contacted staff members Allyson Greene, Wendy Cohen, Laurie Sullivan, and Terry Bratt with the good news. Out of 57 entries nationwide, Barrett Elementary took first place in the contest. This accomplishment was the result of a huge team effort by all of the fifth-grade teachers, along with Renee Shaw’s wonderful filming and editing talents. The students worked very hard to design a fun, yet challenging sports-based game for astronauts on the International Space Station to play on an upcoming mission.

For taking first place, the students’ game will be played by the International Space Station crew and recorded for a future NASA TV broadcast. Barrett students will communicate with the astronauts about their game plan. 

Information about the contest was posted on the NES Teachers Corner on Nov. 9, 2010.

Read a description of the contest and find a link to the school’s website with additional contest details and pictures in the article in NEON.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.