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Field Trip to the Moon

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Review Synopsis: by afterschool program expert Mia Feldbaum

The Field Trip to the Moon Informal Educator’s Guide provides a two and half hour program in which students plan a lunar station and trip to the Moon. After watching a 20-minute DVD (or visiting the American Museum of Natural History in New York) the students investigate one of six topics: ecosystem, geology, habitat, engineering, navigation or medical. The program creates an opportunity for engaging discussions, in-depth critical thinking, and problem solving. However, the program could also be completed in much the style of an educational role playing board game. The program provides a highly structured one-time activity in which students can problem solve, work together in groups, and learn about the Moon and considerations for lunar travel.
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The Field Trip to the Moon Informal Educator's Guide provides a two and half hour program in which students work in groups to plan a lunar station and trip to the Moon. After watching a 20-minute DVD (or visiting the American Museum of Natural History in New York) the groups investigate one of six topics: ecosystem, geology, habitat, engineering, navigation or medical. The program is highly structured and reliant on the reproducible materials provided in the guide. There are task cards that assign each group tasks and data cards that the students use to complete the following:

Ecosystem Investigation: The students look at a food web and identify the producers, consumers, and decomposers. Next they select an arrangement of "Organism Cards" to plan the ecosystem on the Moon.

Geology Investigation: The students read twelve "Metals and Minerals Cards" that list metals and minerals that are found on the Moon and describe their uses. Next they look at maps of two possible landing sites on the moon that show areas where each of these metals and minerals are available. Using these maps the students select the best location to mine.

Habitat Investigation: The students brainstorm what sort of spaces they would need at the lunar station for the activities of daily living such as work, recreation, and health. After drawing a rectangle on a sheet of paper they allocate space and arrange a layout for the lunar station that would accommodate all their needs.

Engineering Investigation: The students explore how to generate electricity at the lunar station by reading the eight "Energy Source Cards" and determine which sources of energy would be appropriate for the two possible landing sites.

Navigation Investigation: The students look at maps of two possible landing sites and select one based on topography and on the availability of energy and mineral resources. Next they prioritize the different categories of cargo: food, supplies, life support, mining equipment, power equipment, building materials and determine what percentage of cargo space will be allotted for each category of cargo. Lastly they pack the cargo by fitting cargo cut-outs into cargo bay drawn onto a piece of paper.

Medical Investigation: The students review twelve types of medical emergencies that could occur on the Moon. They look at eleven data cards from the Lunar First Aid Kit and fourteen Additional First Aid Item data cards. The group selects five data cards from Additional First Aid Items to add to their kit. Lastly they review a hypothetical medical emergency situation and discuss their procedure for treating the injured person based on their supplies.

Each group reports out to the whole class intermittently to keep all teams updated and to share pertinent information. Ultimately each team presents their final project to complete the lunar station.

The program creates an opportunity for engaging discussions, in-depth critical thinking, and problem solving. The task cards include some pedagogical discussion questions, for example, from the medical investigation:

"Open the envelope labeled "Additional First Aid Items." Take turns reading these 14 data cards aloud. Discuss each first aid item. Consider:
  • How could it be used in emergencies?
  • Does it have more than one use?
  • Can it be substituted with something you already have?"


However, the program could also be completed in much the style of an educational board game without any meaningful discussions. It would be worthwhile for the instructor to be skilled at facilitating group work and to encourage lively discussions and problem solving in the activities.

To prepare for the activity, the task cards and data cards must be printed and cut out from the guide. Other materials for each group includes scissors, drawing paper, rulers, pencils, glue sticks or tape, and markers. The guide also suggests providing magnifying glasses, rock samples, and actual medical equipment though the activities can be completed without these. The guide itself and the DVD can be obtained free of charge from American Museum of Natural History website.

This program is correlated to National Science Education Standards and includes optional NASA articles that discuss topics relevant to each investigation. The activities are definitely appropriate to an after school environment and would have entertainment appeal to many students. It is recommended for use with students in third grade and above but does not include any suggestions for adapting the activity to students of different ages. As it is designed to be a one day two and a half hour program it may work as a culminating project or special day event. Though it is not designed this way, the program could also be split up and done in sessions over the course of a few days. Note however that it would important to have the same students present in each session. Additionally, one can easily re-use or re-print the task and data cards to run the program again with a new group of students. The program provides a highly structured activity in which students can problem solve, work together in teams, and learn about the Moon and considerations for lunar travel.