Meadowview Elementary School Students Went on a Mission to Mars

Steve HeckTeacher Steve Heck is enhancing his sixth grade students' education by involving them in Space Explorers Portal program for the first time this year.

"This experience has been outstanding and it is our hope to continue this relationship for many years to come," Mr. Heck said. "We are making it an integral part of our curriculum." Mr. Heck engaged eighty students, who completed the Marslink® simulation, based on NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey missions.

"We found the lesson plans easy to use and met not only our local curriculum course of study, but Ohio state educational standards as well. It's a great fit and great way to energize students in science, math and technology," Heck said. Heck's students have been studying the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars in depth while learning about other NASA missions, the solar system, and other science and technology related fields.

Meadowview"This program has been the highlight of the school year. The timing was perfect to accomplish a Mars mission," Heck added. "Everyday we talk about our mission in class and throughout the school. This is especially true now with the Mars Rover missions tied to the other Mars missions."

Mr. Heck's classroom was filled with space enthusiasts during the simulated trip to Mars.

"Everyone in our school family (students, teachers, administrators, and parents) was totally awed by [the Marslink®] program. The classroom was filled with visitors, especially during the launch. As some parents stated, 'It was like being at NASA.' There were even cheers when the rocket lifted-off and when the Global Surveyor entered Martian orbit.

Meadowview"The student highlights were student role playing and leadership roles. Students enjoyed being in charge and being responsible for their decisions. They enjoyed their role with briefing the press and other visitors.

"As a teacher, my enjoyment started with bringing Space Explorers to my school. The integration of science, technology, and math was great. Watching my students assume their roles accomplish the mission through problem solving and group work was exciting. Finally, the smiles and sense of accomplishment my students showed was priceless."

Evaluating the Portal program's near term effectiveness, Mr. Heck said "Lessons and simulations help prepare student to pass the 6th grade Ohio Proficiency Test through exciting hands-on presentations.

Meadowview"Integrated approach (science, math & technology) presenting lessons together help my students understand how everything fits together," Heck added. "Also, it shows them why all subjects are important especially at the 6th grade level. To paraphrase Galileo; math is the alphabet of science."

Not only is the Portal program preparing students for the near future, it also is getting students ready for long term success.

"[The Portal] program also sets the stage for high school. We were able to show students how the lessons in 6th grade are expanded at the high school level.

Meadowview"The missions' simulations sparked my students into researching their 'NASA Jobs.' They are now interested in science, math, and technology related jobs."

Mr. Heck also utilizes Space Explorers educational lessons, curriculum, and activities to enhance students' knowledge in various other key areas.

"Space Explorers is setting the stage for all my science programs. For example, in physical and earth science the lessons were used as both lead-in lessons and as well as part of the overall curriculum. Specifically, we used [the] lessons as our study of the universe. Many lessons were used to discuss the Sun, Earth, and Moon.

Meadowview"For life science, we are growing the plants from the International Space Station to use in our study of plant and cells. In Health, we will be using the nutrition lessons."

Space Explorers would like to thank the Ohio Space Grant Consortium for helping sponsor the program cost and giving Meadowview Elementary School the opportunity to participate in the Portal program.

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