Extreme Classroom Makeover | Oak Ridge Associated Universities



Alvey’s Extreme Classroom Helps Science Students Reach for the Moon & Beyond


Sixth-graders in Jenny Alvey’s fourth-period science class are using their new extreme classroom at Knox County’s Gresham Middle School to help them aim as high as the moon—and beyond.

Using NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) as the focus, Alvey’s students prepared a presentation and activity for Gresham Middle School’s “Super Stellar Space Spectacular.” It was the day before the school-wide event and Alvey’s students were preparing to demonstrate a combined high-tech presentation and hands-on activity for their fellow classmates and parents.

The lesson began with Alvey using the Promethean board to show images from a recent NASA unmanned lunar mission—an accomplishment considered a vital first step toward returning to the moon where no human has walked this century.

After viewing the images, Alvey challenged her students to recreate three-dimensional replicas of the space probe using unlikely materials such as taco shells, graham crackers, soda straws and macaroni bits. Marshmallow creme provided adhesive.

“Omigosh, you just dissolved it!” one student cried, as his group’s precariously crafted LRO model collapsed onto its base.

Models were just one aspect of a more elaborate, high-tech presentation. Alvey used her high-tech classroom to demonstrate how the LRO gathers data on topography and lunar resources for future astronauts to use in building a moon base for more ambitious missions to Mars. The students then used laptops and the ActivExpression clicker response system to produce the final presentation.

So what did students glean from their high-tech/low-tech learning? Alvey said:

“The whole point was to have fun with it. It was messy!” she noted as students scrubbed sticky tables and fingers. “But now we better understand what goes into making an LRO.

“The culmination of your project,” she told her students, “comes when you show others how to make an LRO.”

Her other science classes will use the extreme classroom for such projects as a Solar System Café where students will study each planet using facts learned in clever menus for a celestial café.

“After three months’ using this extreme classroom,” Alvey said, “I’m not sure how we got along without it.”

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