Space Camp Activities in 6th Grade Science Classes

Update: Want to know more with lesson plans and ideas? Check out this post from April, 16, 2015.

My colleagues and I have been planning a fun way to wrap up the school year. We are fortunate in that our fourth quarter calendar has us teaching astronomy/space. We have our state testing the last week in April, and the month of May is dedicated to astronomy extension activities or previewing seventh grade material. It’s our choice.

Earlier this year, our language arts counterparts conducted a three-week rotation unit where students  spent three days with each language arts teacher. The students had a chance to interact with a different teachers, and the teachers had a chance to teach all the students areas where they felt very comfortable. We decided it would be fun to try this in science as well. During one of our planning brainstorming sessions, another teacher had the great idea to make the rotations feel like space camp. (Seriously! This was actually not my initial idea, but me experiences at Space Academy last summer did inspire it.)

We had a bit of a challenge as we figured out how to do our rotations. We have three science teachers who teach science throughout the day (four classes), and two science teachers who only teach science half the day (two classes). Both of our half time science teachers teach in the afternoon. So essentially, we have three science teachers in the two morning classes, and five science teachers in the two afternoon classes. It took a lot longer than you might think for us to work out our rotations, but we finally decided it would work best to treat the morning and afternoon rotations separately. We also came to the conclusion that three rotations of four days each would work best. In the afternoon sessions, some of the teachers will be teaching the same lessons/activities, and all students will not have a chance to visit all five teachers; however, each student will have the same activities experiences.

We decided to complete the following activities:

  • Activity A: Create and launch water bottle rockets (from 2-L soda bottles).
  • Activity B: Create a Mars parachute balloon lander simulation to protect an egg. Simulate the impact of meteorites on the Earth using water balloons, small rocks, and flour.
  • Activity C: The Great Solar System Rescue. This is a computer based challenge game that we helps students explore more of the solar system while using clues and problem solving. It’s from Tom Snyder Productions. We have several copies of this that we have been using for several years.


Inspiration for the egg drop Mars lander activity from Space Academy.

We also have one day when we have a practice writing test that will shorten our schedule to only about 30 minutes each  class period. In order to still keep in the feeling of space camp that day, we will show Journey to the Stars (a planetarium show) to all classes that day.

We are really excited to start this program with our students on April 30th! We’re still trying to come up with a better name for the experience. Space Camp in 6th Grade Science just isn’t all that catchy! Do you have any suggestions for a great name for our program? Have you ever tried something like this before? Please share! I’ll also post updates as we start the process of sharing space camp activities with our students.

The water bottle rocket I made with my teammates this summer. This is the activity I will lead.

By Janelle

Space geek, science nerd extraordinaire. That's me! Want to know more, visit the About page.


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