This week I took a look at the Orbital motion and the ISS WISE activity. The interface was a little daunting to start with so I simply began at the beginning and started small. I was able to make some formatting changes easily and worked in a new writing prompt early asking students to come up with additional examples of artificial and natural satellites and to defend their answers. The previous step was about what makes a sattelite and the difference between artificial and natural ones so it seemed an opportune time to activate prior knowledge and build the habit of gathering evidence. I also added some additional prompts to the intro screen about collecting evidence that gave the students clues about what sorts of information to look for and what types of projects/tests this would be needed for. I figured that if they knew what to look for and why it was important to find, they would pay closer attention to the text on the first reading thus building positive habits for traditional text reading/decoding.
While I did not work it in to the project framework, I did explore the Phet Simulations activity. These little simulations allow students to play with different physical systems. I managed to locate one on earth/sun/moon/satellite orbits where the masses, play speed, and gravity could be adjusted. I was able to test it out in my grade 6 class (who are conveniently studying astronomy) and we were able to explore how solar mass affected orbits and how velocity can play a part in escaping gravitational pull. We also managed to pull of a slingshot maneuver around the sun 🙂
As a lesson/group of lessons, this project was already fairly well tailored to my needs. Mainly in needed logistical prompts specific to my students and visualizations relevant to their day to day life. Distance analogies relating to places around the school and community were particularly helpful in getting my class to conceptualize solar system distances when we represented the sun with a beach ball and the earth with a marble.