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Exploring the Solar System
8th graders doing rover design and testing

Why do we have seasons? Why does the moon look different at different times of the month? How far away and how large are other objects in our solar system? What is gravity and why is it important? Students in Eighth Grade Science were challenged to investigate these and other questions during a two-month study unit of the solar system. 

During this unit, students made observations, collected data, and even had an opportunity to talk to amateur astronaut and educator Ron Rosano who traveled to space on a Virgin Galactic Spaceflight. Other learnings included how scientists study outer space, different missions into space by Americans and the Soviet Union/Russians, Mars rovers, and how these missions and projects were developed by engineers and scientists.

For their culminating summative project, students were challenged to build their own Mars rover out of cardboard. “They had a few restrictions for this project,” explains Science Teacher Mary Churchill. “The students could only use two elastic bands, had to make the entire vehicle out of cardboard, and had to be sure that the rover could maneuver over three surfaces, such as hardwood floors, turf, grass, and dirt.” Students tested their rovers as the vehicles navigated multiple surfaces, and recorded the distance the rover traveled as it was propelled by a rubber band on its axle. “Our students analyzed the data and reflected on what they learned through the engineering design process,” continued Churchill, “and revised and refined their original designs.” 

Next up, our eighth graders will further their learning by visiting the Chabot Space and Science Center to learn more about our solar system. “They will put some of their new engineering knowledge to the test,” said Churchill, “as they are challenged to build another rover, as well as visit the various exhibits at the Space Center.”