Mission to Mars: Part 3

Shuttle cockpit

NASA/courtesy of nasaimages.org

Mars Lander

This is the 3rd part of the Mission to Mars series of posts to illustrate how the Mars themed IWB resources on teacherLED.com may be used and why they were created.  This focuses on Mars Lander the IWB resource at teacherLed.

This is always a favourite with children as there is no problem to solve but it does provide an intense exercise in communication skills and teamwork.  Many of the children I have run these sessions with have poor teamwork skills and put little thought into how best to communicate their ideas to others.  This activity demands the 3 members of the team work together and communicate clearly and concisely. 

As always I try to give some real world justification for the activity.  For this one the film Apollo 13 provides it.  The scene where the astronauts are attempting to manually readjust the trajectory of their craft by each controlling a different aspect of the craft is shown to the children.  Unfortunately there is a little bad language in this scene.  I have created a version where this is muted out but for copyright reasons I can’t make it available. Just be ready for with the mute button if you use the original.  Showing this does really help, though, when the children start bemoaning the fact that it is a much easier task if only one takes the controls. You can point to the precedent.

The children are then told that they have a certain amount of time to practice on the simulators (laptops or class computers).  At the end each group will have a certain number of attempts to land the craft in reality at the IWB computer with the whole world (the class) watching and listening to their communications.

Depending on the social skills of the group this can be quite fraught to begin with as members of the team feel they are being unfairly blamed for repeated crashes, or somebody feels their instructions aren’t being listened to.  This being the case it is a good idea to get back together as a class after about 10 minutes to discuss the various areas of friction.  Discuss what happens when everybody shouts instructions at once, what makes a clear and concise instruction and whatever aspects you feel needs addressing.  Once teams settle on a method, usually one commander giving a limited set of instruction phrases, progress starts to be made.  It remains a tricky challenge but is certainly doable. 

One other aspect of the resource is that introduces the idea of solar interference which allows a link to a discussion about the sun, solar winds, sun spot activity and its potential impact on our communications here on earth.  It takes an artistic liberty in the predictability, duration and frequency but it serves its purpose.

I usually award points for each successful landing a team completes at the IWB.

View part 1 of this series.

View part 2 of this series.