First-graders took on the role of astronomers this month to study the sun, moon, stars, and their patterns, with the driving question being, “How can we, as astronomers, teach others about the moon and its phases using technology?”
Project-Based Learning (PBL) includes a driving question, entry event, student collaboration and inquiry, student choice, a shared final product, and reflection.
For PNA first-graders, the entry event was a virtual field trip with the Anchorage Museum themed around space. At this event, students learned about how the earth and moon rotate and orbit. They stood up and moved like the earth and moon using dots on the floor, chairs, and pencils. They also made their own observations about the sun, moon, and earth, including how long, on average, the sun is out during the summer vs. winter in Alaska through a sped-up video of the sky.
Since this event, students have been exploring shadows and making models to help understand that the sun (and light) look like it is moving when the earth moves. With this driving question in mind, students have also been doing their own research using classroom texts and apps, like Epic, on the iPad, while also learning about the moon and space from videos, read-aloud, and reading and science lessons.
Throughout this process, students have discovered the answers to questions and vocabulary they initially said they needed to know in order to be successful with this project.
Students were partnered up and offered choices on the technology and materials they believed would best show and teach the moon. All students chose to make the moon and other space objects out of clay, paper, and paint. To present their work with technology, all partners agreed to use Chatterpix, an app where you take a photo of an object, draw a mouth on the image, and record what you want the object to say. Students have been taking pictures of their clay or paper objects, and some have also used things like lamps to depict the sun and other space objects.
Projects like this allow students to integrate a variety of skills to develop something they are proud of using higher-order thinking skills. It has been exciting to see how engaged they have been. Their collaboration, humor, creativity, and the results of their hard work are really coming together.