Christa's Lost Lessons
Lost Lesson 1
Besides the six lost science lessons scheduled for filming aboard Challenger, two televised “live lessons” were planned for the sixth day of the mission. The time scheduled for each was fifteen minutes. These were to be aired on the Public Broadcasting Network (PBS) at 10:40 a.m. and 10:40 p.m. Central Standard Time.
The first lesson (actually given its name by Christa) was “The Ultimate Field Trip”. It dealt with explaining and describing to students the general layout of the shuttle. Additionally, crew members (Commander Dick Scobee, Pilot Mike Smith and others) would be introduced.
The background description for the first live lesson, “The Ultimate Field Trip”, comes from the NASA publication “Teacher in Space Project.” It is stated below:
“This lesson is based on a quotation by Teacher in Space Christa McAuliffe who described her opportunity to go into space as ‘the ultimate field trip.’
- To observe the major areas of the Shuttle and describe their function
- To list and describe the major kinds of activities crewmembers perform aboard the Shuttle
- To compare and contrast daily activities in microgravity with those on Earth.
Video Lesson Description:
This lesson from space will begin in the flight deck area of the Challenger where Christa McAuliffe will introduce the commander and pilot and will point out the Shuttle controls, computers, and payload bay.
When she arrives at the mid-deck, McAuliffe will show viewers the kinds of equipment and processes which help human beings live comfortably and safely in the microgravity environment of the Shuttle.
After reading the above scenario, watch the video once more, starting with the setup planning by Christa, Barbara Morgan, and Astronaut Mike Smith. Note the camera is mounted on a tripod. Of course, except for holding the camera in a stable position, the tripod is an apparatus not needed in orbit where gravity is not a factor. The camera, unlike that to be used for the six lost lessons, is a video type, not film. This would permit broadcast through the Public Broadcasting System, an educational television network seen throughout the United States .
Christa’s trial practice begins in the flight deck area where Commander Dick Scobee and Pilot Michael Smith (actually present for the practice) are introduced. After describing some items such as the onboard computer, Christa descends into the mid-deck area. There, she describes the WMS (Waste Management System – the toilet), the privacy curtain, the use of the sleep restraint, and the galley for food preparation. Also, she demonstrates use of the drawer-like storage lockers. Specifically, she explains the need for tie down restraints to keep stowed items from floating away.
A Classroom Version of Christa’s “Ultimate Field Trip” Lost Lesson
The following demonstration replicates Christa’s experiment:
As a tour, a classroom version would include reports by students assigned the topics addressed in the above description of Christa’s shuttle walk-through.
NASA documents found in the school or local public library. CDROMs such as the NASA Space Educators’ Handbook.
The “The Ultimate Field Trip” in the Classroom:
- Assign different students a research project on: 1. How astronauts sleep on the Shuttle 2. How astronauts use the waste management system on the Shuttle 3. How astronauts use the onboard personal computer on the Shuttle 4. How astronauts prepare meals on the Shuttle 5. How astronauts bath and dress on the Shuttle 6. How astronauts pilot the Shuttle 7. How astronauts use the cargo bay’s robotic arm on the Shuttle 8. How astronauts entertain themselves apart from official duties on the Shuttle, and other Shuttle activities which can be assigned members of the class.
- Have each student write a one page report for oral presentation to the class. Let each student pretend he or she is a Shuttle astronaut teaching from space. Additionally, assign a student as the mission control center capcom who will introduce the individual reports and student speakers.
- Suggest to the remaining students that they imagine the presenters as onboard the Shuttle presenting the same kind of information Christa intended to broadcast during her Ultimate Field Trip lesson.
- Using the biographical backgrounds of each of the Challenger Seven crew members, assign individual students the role of introducing the crew to the class. Let the student assigned the capcom role introduce Christa. Assign a student Christa’s role of introducing Commander Richard Scobee followed by another student introducing Pilot Mike Smith and so on until all seven crew members have been introduced to the class. (NASA and many other web pages feature biographies of each crew member.)
- Ask each student to consider demonstrating a walk through of the school. What would be important to show a new student about rooms assigned for: lunch, science experiments, and other locations needed to get through a day at school?
- The role playing exercise offers unique learning opportunities. One who presents also learns the topic more fully than one who is taught. Each student who is assigned a topic becomes the topic’s expert. Whether the subject is the Space Shuttle or the life of a member of the Challenger crew, the assigned student is the “go-to-person” for information.
- Christa was not a science teacher though she, certainly, had previous course work in the sciences. Yet, she became quite expert in conducting the lost science lessons in innovated ways. This is evidence that a gifted teacher is very adaptable. Additionally, and, perhaps, most importantly, an excellent teacher is likewise an outstanding student. Christa McAuliffe was both.
Questions to Answer:
- What difficulties might Christa have faced that a teacher in a school class room would not have faced?
- What benefits did Christa have in teaching onboard an orbiting spaceship compared to an earth based classroom?
- How would you have planned the lesson as far as using some kind of “black-board”, a video camera, and “show-and-tell” models?
What Would Have Happened on Challenger?
This is best answered by actually performing the above activity. In the process, ask these questions:
- What added handicap exists on the Challenger, not present for the classroom activity?
- If Christa had accidentally released a “show and tell” item, what might have happened?
- Why was using a blackboard and chalk discouraged?
- If you were to teach the seven member astronaut crew a lesson onboard the shuttle, how would you organize the shuttle into a classroom based on Christa’s description of the shuttle interior?
- How long would a class period be and why?
For added information or copies of the project, contact the project editor Jerry Woodfill, at ER7, NASA JSC, Houston , TX77058 . Phone: 281-483-6331, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The project is a work of the Automation, Robotics, and Simulation Division of the NASAJohnsonSpaceCenter , Houston , Texas . As part of the Space Educators’ Handbook, its ID identifier is OMB/NASA Report #S677.