Note: This resource is part of the STAO Grade Six Space Unit User Guide. Click here to access the parent resource.

Space Exploration and Travel

Unit Curriculum and Assessment Plan

S&T – Grade 6: Space
Earth and our Relationship with our Sun and Moon.
2 to 3 weeks
Expectations/Big Ideas:

Technological and scientific advances that enable humans to study space affect our lives

Students will assess the impact of space exploration on society and the environment.

Investigate the types of tools used for space exploration.

Investigate the current and future types of spacecraft.


Description of task:

Students will write a report which which will require them the use scientific terminology, examples and diagrams to explaining the development of a future space traveling vehicle or where do they believe the space program will go next.

The students will work on developing a replacement for the Space Shuttle

Video: What will Replace the Space Shuttle?

Download: Designing a CEV Educator

Download: Designing a CEV Student

Write Say Do


Assessment Tool:

Rubric – will evaluate understanding and communication skills

Checklist – will evaluate students’ ability to meet identified criteria of an effective scientific response.


Assessment Criteria/ Look Fors:

  • Understand the current tools used for space exploration and space travel
  • Ability to express and organize ideas and information
  • Inclusion of all required components of an effective communication response
In order to operate in space, spacecraft – both robotic and manned – must overcome earth’s gravity to travel to space and into orbit. This requires huge amounts of energy. They must then be able to operate in the harsh environments of space.
In order to be in space, the spacecraft must get there. But it will immediately fall back to earth unless the effect of gravity is balanced by a high enough orbital velocity to keep it in orbit. In near-earth space, that velocity is about 7 km/sec, and is obtained with chemical rockets. These function by ejecting gas behind. This, according to Newton’s Third Law, propels the spacecraft forward. Once in space (outside the atmosphere), the spacecraft and its inhabitants (if any) are exposed to high-energy particles and radiation from the sun, and to micrometeorites.

Activity in space was initially motivated by politics (the space race between USSR and USA), military (hundreds of secret spy satellites), as well as science and technology. Peaceful uses of space include: communication, remote sensing, weather, search-and-rescue, GPS, mapping, and scientific research including Hubble Space Telescope. Then there are studies of physiology, engineering, and manufacturing in space. And exploration (we do it because “it’s there”).

2.5 use a variety of forms (e.g., oral, written, graphic, multimedia) to communicate with different audiences and for a variety of purposes (e.g., use a graphic organizer to identify and order main ideas and supporting details for a report about how science and technology can help humans adapt to life in space)

3.4 identify the technological tools and devices needed for space exploration (e.g., telescopes, spectroscopes, spacecraft, life-support systems)

Lesson Goal(s) and/or Focus of Instruction
Description of Student task
Diagnostic or Formative Assessment
Assessment tool
How will you know when each child has reached the goals? Assessment Criteria/Look Fors:
1C Students will complete a diagnostic questionaire to determine prior knowledge and misconceptions they bring into the key learning of space exploration technology and travel
Read diagnostic questionnaires submitted by students. Record all major misconceptions as well as areas of strength for both individuals as well as the group.Download: Space exploration travel diagnostic
2C A beginning to learning about space exploration would be to examine the history of space exploration.

Video: A Brief History of Space

Link: Tools for Exploration

This lesson is designed to help students gain an understanding of how the science of astronomy has evolved over the centuries. It also gives students the opportunity to see how international collaboration within the field of astronomy has lead to new discoveries and applications.

Lesson: Astronomers and Their Tools

Write/ Do
At the end of the lesson, students will make a poster on based on what they learned.

Download: Cooperative Learning Rubric

3C This lesson reinforces the information the students learned in 2C to explore a planet.
This activity demonstrates how planetary features are discovered by the use of remote sensing techniquesDownload: Planetary exploration lesson plan

Download: Planetary exploration student worksheet

Download: Planetary exploration total

Write/ Do
checklist/ conference
Students will submit their Planetary Explorations – Student worksheet.
3C Telescopes collect and, with instruments, measure and study light and other radiation from objects in space. They make them look brighter and more distinct. Use this powerpoint to show students an overview of telescopes, including the most powerful telescopes in Canada and the world.

Powerpoint: Telescopes

This lesson helps students to understand how telescopes work and how they can contribute to our knowledge of the universe

Lesson: Lesson on Telescopes

Telescopes in space (e.g. Hubble) do not suffer from the blurring effect of Earth’s atmosphere, and produce stunning images

Link: Hubble Images

“Telescopes From the Ground Up” traces the history of telescope development and highlights the interplay between technological and scientific advances. In this modular activity, milestones in telescope development are highlighted in the 10 sections called “eras,” with specific examples included in the associated “telescope pages.” The human component is integrated through the biography pages, which provide a glimpse of the inventors and astronomers behind the telescopes. The science of light and telescopes is presented in the section “Get to the Root of It,” which can be used for review, learning the basics, or remediation. Depending on the teacher’s objective, “Get to the Root of It” can be accessed prior to doing the activity and/or while working through the eras and telescope pages.

Link: Telescopes from the Ground Up

Note: At one time, Canada had two of the three largest telescopes in the world! And we are now partners in all the biggest telescopes.

Students submit the websearch worksheet and build a telescope.

The student will successfully build a Galileoscope

4C CanadarmThis lesson the students will build a model Canadarm and endeffector.

Video: STS 132: Canadarm

Lesson: Build Your Own Robot Arm Lesson Plan102364

Lesson: Canadarm extender

Link: Canadarm

Link: Canadarm2 and the Mobile Servicing System

Link: Shuttle and Station Robotic Arms Comparison

The students will build an Canadarm Extender and see if they can move the sticky balls to the payload bay of the space shuttle.
5C RobonautVideo: Robonaut 2 Ready for ISS

Link: Robonaut Home Page

Link: Wikipedia Robonaut

At the end of the lesson the teacher leads a brainstorming session of key learning of the day and have the students make jot notes.
6C RoversThe first activity will place students in the role of scientists as they use observational and critical thinking skills to analyze and hypothesize about an image of Mars. Students will determine what they think to be scientifically interesting by making visual observations and rank their observations in order of importance.

Download: First Activity: Analyzing Images

The second activity allows students to gain experience in the use of maps, measurements and observations to determine location of objects as they try and find the location of the rovers

Download: Second Activity: The Rover has landed but Where?

The third activity is to have the rover driver design and execute a series of commands that will guide a human rover through a simulated Martian surface, allowing the rover team to experience some of the challenges of teleoperating a robotic vehicle on another planet.

Download: Rover Races Activity

In activity one, the students will complete the assigned questions.

Download: Roverquest greetings from gusev student worksheet

In activity two, the students will complete the activity

Download: Roverquest where are you student worksheet

In the third activity, the students will successfully navigate the rover course

7C A beginning to space travel would be to know where space begins and where we have been in space.This lesson identifies where in the earths atmosphere we have a presence.

Students work on developing a six-page-high chart showing five layers of Earth’s atmosphere. They cut out pictures of NASA aircraft, satellites, and spacecraft and graph where these NASA vehicles fly or orbit.

Download: How High Is It Educator Guide

The students will complete a six page chart showing where vehicles currently fly or orbit.
8C Vehicle: RocketsStudents will learn about the about the first vehicle used to get into space. Initially the students will read a Pictoral History of Rockets and How Rockets Work. Which will help them understand the basic principles of rocketry.

Lesson History of Rockets (page 25)
Part 1   Part 2    Part 3

Download: Rockets History

Download: Rockets How Rockets Work

Students then complete an activity to construct balloon-powered rockets to launch the greatest payload possible to the classroom ceiling.

Download: Rockets Heavy Lifting

Read/ Do
At the end of the activity, Heavy Lifting, each student team will:
Describe their design to the class.
How many balloons did they use?
How many paperclips did their rocket carry to the ceiling?
How did they attach the paperclips to the balloon?
What problems did they encounter?
How did they solve those problems?Then the students will write a summary of your launch vehicle using correct science and technology terms (e.g., lift, payload, mass, thrust).
9C Vehicle: ShuttleThis lesson the students learn about one of the work horses of the space program, the space shuttle.

Download: LES Space Shuttle Info

Powerpoint:  Space Shuttle Info

This lesson serves as an intermediate introduction to the Space Shuttle systems.

If you have the resources and time students can participate in an activity where they serve as console engineers for a launch countdown. This activity is based on the actual software currently used for training at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Control Center, this software enables a launch countdown simulation with a networked system of computers.

Download: KLASS Software

Download: Paper Model of Shuttle

Link: Orbitor and Payload Tour

Link: Space Shuttle Webpage

Video: Shuttle Launch

Video: Shuttle Launch from Inside Orbiter

Orbiter Labeling

Orbiter Labeling – Answers


Crossword – Answers

Word Search

Word Search –  Answers

10C ARES 1- XIn learning about “Launching Ares,” students read the text “From Earth to the Moon and Beyond,” which offers a historical context for U.S. space exploration. It includes a discussion of the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs, as well as a closer look at Ares, the next generation of launch vehicles.

Download Teachers Lesson and Student Text From the Earth to the Moon and Beyond (page 34)    Part 1   Part 2   Part 3

Video: Return to the Moon: The Journey Begins Now

Download: What Comes Next

Video: Real World: Putting Together Ares 1-X

At the end of the lesson the teacher leads a brainstorming session of key learning of the day and have the students make jot notes.
11C Through research and presentation, the students will be able to answer questions regarding Canadian astronauts.Lesson: Canadian Astronauts and Astronomers
Each student will be used to develop a poster profile of their astronaut or astronomer, including a picture in poster format.
communication satellite An artificial satellite used for relaying communications (such as TV) from one location on earth to another.
orbit An orbit is an elliptical (closed) path that an object takes as it revolves around another body.

outer space everything beyond Earth’s atmosphere
payload The payload is the cargo carried on the Space Shuttle or other spacecraft.
remote sensing Remote sensing is the gathering of data from a distance. For example, spacecraft are sent into space with devices designed to study objects and phenomena and then send the information back to Earth.
robot A machine to carry out tasks, under instructions from humans.
rocket A rocket is a machine that propels itself and a payload into space.
space junk The proper term is “space debris”. It’s human-made debris that orbits the earth.
spacecraft Spacecraft are vehicles that travel beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.
telescope A device to collect light (or other radiation) and bring it to a focus, where it can be studied with camera, spectrographs or other instruments.
weightless Weightlessness (or free fall) is the state in which an object appears to have no weight (but the object’s mass remains the same). During weightlessness, the apparent gravitational pull on an object is negligible (close to zero).
  • There is no gravity in space.
  • Spacecraft must be constantly propelled in order to move in their orbits.
  • The only space careers are as astronauts; in fact, there are a wide range of careers that contribute to space exploration.
  • The term “space” tends to be associated with human activities with rockets, satellites, and spacecraft, mostly near Earth. Which makes it different from astronomy: the study of the universe. The universe is everything that exists, including galaxies, stars, their planets, moons etc.
  • Canada was the third country(after the USSR and USA) to place a satellite in earth orbit. This is because Canada has a strong interest and expertise in the study of the upper atmosphere, and in the use of space for communication, remote sensing etc.
  • Canadians have continued to be leaders in such fields as communication via satellites, and in remote sensing (e.g. RadarSat).
  • Canadian scientists and engineers have developed micro-satellites (such as MOST, the famous “humble space telescope”) and are leaders in the development of shoebox-sized nanosatellites.

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