Christa’s Lost Lessons Brought to Life
Challenger Center, in partnership with NASA and STEM on Station, worked to complete several of the lessons Christa McAuliffe had planned for the Challenger STS 51L Teacher in Space mission. Working with Astronauts Ricky Arnold and Joe Acaba, the demonstrations were filmed aboard the International Space Station and corresponding lessons were developed for classrooms.
Lesson topics include chromatography, effervescence, liquids in microgravity and Newton’s law. Several of the lessons were completed as originally planned by Christa and a few were reimagined based on materials available aboard the Space Station.
The History of the Lost Lessons
Had events happened differently, and the Challenger crew’s mission been completed, it would have brought Christa McAuliffe’s science lessons to children around the world. However, the lessons, prepared for the nation and the world’s children, were never performed.
In addition to live lessons, Christa McAuliffe had planned to conduct a number of demonstrations during the flight. The filmed activities, known as the six lost lessons, were to be used as a part of several educational packages that would be distributed after the mission. In addition, two live lessons were to be televised on PBS on the sixth day of the mission.
A NASA educational specialist, Bob Mayfield, wrote a narrative description of the six planned activities in the 1980s, focusing on the science and engineering performed in the conception and planning of the lessons, and describing related earth-based exercises. Mock-up planning practices of the activities and zero gravity demonstrations on video were collected with Mr. Mayfield’s narratives and are now made available to help teachers understand and teach Christa’s lessons. All six scripted experiments include a materials list, set up, and step-by-step instructions for teachers to use in the classroom with students.
Using these activities, teachers can replicate what Christa was not able to share from orbit. Christa’s wonderful teaching gift and spirit are captured in the videos, and her remarks and actions in training, accomplish most of her lessons plans.
These pre-flight lessons were designed for teachers to use in the classroom, to prepare their students for the live lessons from space that Christa McAuliffe had planned to teach. Students who experience the lost lessons will be the future that is touched by Christa’s gift.