With Sharon Duncan and the Waseca School
Maybe you are wondering and planning how to begin this new school year. Of course, you will begin with the beginning - The BIG BANG. What you do afterwards doesn’t have to be anticlimactic. Last year, I talked with the 6-9 class at the Waseca School in Athens, Georgia about what they wanted to do. After the story of the Big Bang, there was a solar system. We decided to take a journey through the solar system, visiting all of the planets, the sun and the asteroid belt and make a movie of our adventure! I would like to share that process with you as well as the trailer. We began by dividing up into teams to research each of our destinations in the solar system. These teams would be the experts there. After they had the information they needed, the students worked with me to write their part of the script. All of the ideas came from them, I only helped to refine their ideas, ask key questions and type fast. The script changed to include their ad-libs as we began to rehearse for the production. For costumes, we collected matching knit shirt and pants. We made several belts out of silver lamé fabric over elastic with buckles in the back. I got the logo on the web and printed off NASA labels to wear on our shirts. For the set, I brought in a huge piece of cardboard used to ship a mattress. We cut out a window and spayed the cardboard with silver paint. We made control panels out of construction paper with silver pens and covered them in cellophane to make them look like a glass computer screen.We hot-glued bottle tops for dials and buttons. We painted poster board circles of the correct diameter for each planet to be hung in the window for that specific scene. There was a black plastic (garbage bag) backdrop behind it and cellophane in front. The set was complete.We wanted to add some stop motion action to show our spaceship visiting the planets.We needed to make a model for that. I found a great little video on tube about some homeschoolers making the planets out of balloons stuffed with rice in plastic bags. You can watch it here.
We did it according to the directions of how much rice to measure for each planet. When it was complete, it looked not quite right. Jupiter and Saturn should have been much larger. That led us to looking up the relative sizes and creating a ratio. We did this with the older students who were into some advanced division. In order to do it more easily, we needed a lesson about rounding numbers. I love it anytime math is needed to solve a problem in the classroom. It worked out for Mercury to be our standard of measure, receiving 100 ml of rice. Luckily, I found 12 inch balloons that could handle the size of Jupiter and Saturn. We also used the model of the solar system to enact the motion of the planets around the sun.What came out of this was a lot of creative problem solving, a reason to research, an opportunity for creative writing, a chance for the dramatic ones to shine, a challenge for the shy ones and a great event for parents and kids with popcorn at the opening night. What I didn’t anticipate was that the contrast between the Earth and the other planets would be made so acutely. It was like we had actually been there and were coming home to our incredible, miraculous planet. It set the stage beautifully for our studies of the Earth and the biomes! Stay tuned for a project that celebrated the earth!