Mission to Mars: Part 4

Solar panel
NASA/courtesy of nasaimages.org

The 4th part of a series describing how the Mission to Mars resources on teacherLED.com can be utilised in a themed series of lessons.

 Mars Angles

The intention behind the Mars Angle IWB Resource was to bring in an aspect of a class’s previous learning to the session but it could also be used as an exercise alongside the initial learning of angles.  The presentation of the resource allows it to slot into the theme of mission to Mars but is really just an exercise in estimating angles.  As such it can work well as plenary exercise after a lesson angles.  I may come back to this resource and provide a version less thematically formatted for those that want it purely for lessons on angles. 

If the students are not secure in the use of angles I use this resource to provide a quick recap.  It uses a similar interface (it shares a significant amout of programming!) so compliments Mars Angle well. 

My use follows the same format as for the previous resources discussed:  A short practise session at a computer (the simulators in our Mission to Mars theme) before going on to the “real” mission at the IWB with all eyes on them.  The background to the challenge that is given is that the craft that relays their signals back to earth has lost the correct alignment for its solar panels and that they have to manually adjust them.  Again, with enough time, this allows some consideration of how communications now relies on satellite technology.

When used with teams I insist that each member has to be responsible for setting one angle totally independently with no input from the rest of the team.   In the mixed age/mixed ability groups I often have this has proved an excellent opportunity for peer teaching.  The older/more able students who were confident in their technique for estimating angles passed on their knowledge and techniques to the others in the 15 minute “practise session” I give them at the computers before they do it for real at the IWB.  This has been very effective in building the ability to estimate angles in children who were at first unsure.  Having one of their friends explain the strategies they used, combined with the need to play their part in the team, really focused their attention and they engaged well asking questions and clarifying their understanding.  The explaining child gets a confidence boost and experiences the need to communicate their knowledge clearly.

After each of the team has inputted their angles enter is pressed.  Then each team member gets up to adjust the dial that they initially inputted to attempt to get closer to the target.  Depending on your group you may allow a discussion on what each of them needs to do but it is usually best to not allow conferring when one is at the IWB or else they tend to rely on the team rather than their own judgement.

I award points to the teams depending on which managed to get the angles within the tolerance limits in the fewest attempts. 

This was the final discussion of the IWB assisted part of the Mission to Mars sessions I run.  The next parts will discuss some of the other aspects of the sessions that may save you some time in planning your own sessions on a similar theme.  I also hope to produce further IWB resources on this theme.

As with all of the entries in this series feel free to add your own ideas for spaced themed lessons.

View part 1 of this series.

View part 2 of this series.

View part 3 of this series.