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Teacher-Astronaut Offers New Lessons



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--Language Arts

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Grades 2-up

News Content

Now that Barbara Morgan is back on Earth, she continues to teach about life in space.

News Words

Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: weightlessness, mission, design, demonstrated, video, and greenhouse. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • When Columbus set sail from Spain in 1492, he was on a _____ to find a short route to India. (mission)
  • The temperature inside a _____ can be controlled so plants can grow there all year long. (greenhouse)
  • A salesperson _____ the proper operation of the washing machine. (demonstrated)
  • Since we were not able to be there, my cousin e-mailed us a _____ of his wedding. (video)
  • In space, people and things float around in a state of _____. (weightlessness)
  • My father and I created a _____ for the new doghouse we wanted to build. (design)

    Read the News

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

  • Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

  • Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.

  • Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.

  • Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

  • Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Teacher-Astronaut Offers New Lessons.

    More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.

  • On the day that Morgan appeared at Disney World, a plaque bearing her name and the words "Reach for your dreams" was hung on a Wall of Honor. That wall bears other plaques with quotes from such visionaries as Charles Lindbergh, Neil Armstrong, John F. Kennedy, Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, and Galileo. Morgan's plaque is right next to Christa McAuliffe's, which reads: "Space is for everybody ... That's our new frontier out there." McAuliffe, the first designated teacher in space, died aboard Challenger in 1986. Morgan had trained as her backup.
  • Morgan carried 10 million basil seeds into space. Now those seeds will be distributed, and students will be encouraged to build space-style growth chambers for them.
  • Morgan said it took her awhile to adjust at the start of the spaceflight. "I felt like I was upside down that entire first day," she said. She called her 13-day flight "absolutely wonderful."
  • Morgan says she would love to return to space, but the space shuttles are scheduled to be retired in three years and three other teacher-astronauts are waiting to fly.
  • When Morgan returned to Earth, she passed up the opportunity to check out space shuttle Endeavour with her six crewmates because she was feeling weak and wobbly. "Actually, I was doing some good science back there," she later said with a laugh, referring to how she remained in the crew-transport vehicle following touchdown. Six hours later, at a press conference, CNN reported that she looked pale and shaky. "The room still spins a little bit, but that's OK," she said. "It will go away and it's actually pretty interesting if you could be in my body."
  • The shuttle mission accomplished many objectives. It carried up and added a truss to the International Space Station. That truss will serve as a platform for lots of equipment, including solar arrays that will generate energy for the station. The mission also carried a SPACEHAB. "Its like a little room; and its a pressurized module," Morgan explained. The SPACEHAB was going up filled with bags full of things that would be needed on the space station -- things like science equipment, food and clothing, communication equipment, spacewalking tools, and medical kits. It took astronauts about 100 person-hours to transfer all those bags from the shuttles cargo space into the space station.
  • Morgan, a native of Fresno, California, was born on November 28, 1951. She is a classical flutist who also enjoys jazz, literature, hiking, swimming, and cross-country skiing. She graduated from Stanford University and began teaching on an Indian reservation in Montana in 1974. She has also taught in McCall, Idaho, and Quito, Ecuador. She is married and the mother of two sons.

    Comprehension Check

    Recalling Detail

  • How long did astronaut Barbara Morgan spend in space? (13 days)
  • What was the name of the space shuttle on which she traveled? (Endeavour)
  • How many astronauts traveled on the Endeavour? (seven; Morgan and six others)
  • How many seeds did the shuttle carry into space? (10 million)
  • Why did Morgans shuttle flight return to Earth a day earlier than originally planned? (a hurricane on Earth caused the early return [mission control was afraid the hurricane might interfere with a safe landing])

    Think About the News
    Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page.

    Follow-Up Activities

    Writing/imagining. You might share with students this video of the launch of Barbara Morgan and the crew of STS-118 on August 9. Ask students to imagine what it would be like to be inside the shuttle during the launch of the space shuttle: How would you feel? What kinds of motions would you feel? How would your body feel? What emotions would be going through your mind? If you teach young students, ask them to brainstorm some good descriptive words before writing; if you teach older students, encourage them to use strong descriptive vocabulary as they write. After students have completed their writing, provide time for them to share the results. At the end of this activity, you might share how astronaut Al Drew described the sensation of launch during one of the sessions he and Morgan led from space for students. Drew described liftoff in this way: "There was no doubt when the solid rocket boosters lit, it was just like being inside of a washing machine that was in a bad spin cycle. There was a pretty good shake going up the whole way, just a tremendous amount of sheer fun. We knew we were heading off the planet! There was a big thump when the solid rocket boosters left the orbiter and then it was a much smoother ride from there on up but the Gs [a term used to measure force during an objects acceleration] started picking up. It felt like there was something heavy standing on my chest. ... It took effort to breathe the whole time. In fact, I kind of felt myself wheezing for the last few minutes as we were going through three Gs. And then suddenly we went from 3 Gs to nothing, I felt my body just slam against the shoulder straps of the seat, it was almost like we recoiled off the back of the seat and we were weightless. I want to find another quarter to put back in there and go for another ride!" For more information about the astronauts conversations with students on Earth, see Morgan and Drew Talk to Students at Challenger Center.

    Technology. Share with students this video of the assembly of the International Space Station. (Click on Full ISS Assembly 1998 to 2010; if the audio quality is poor, turn it down.) And this video shows the crew of STS-118, including Barbara Morgan, explaining some of the tasks they planned to perform aboard Endeavour.


    Use the Comprehension Check above as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.4 Earth and Space Science
    NS.K-4.5 Science and Technology
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space Science
    NS.5-8.5 Science and Technology
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.4 Earth and Space Science
    NS.9-12.5 Science and Technology

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Ellen Delisio and Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2007 Education World