Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tech Savvy Teacher

Gabriela Sanchez, third grade teacher at Archive Elementary School takes her children to space, without ever leaving the classroom.

Rather then teaching my rote, Sanchez has decided to allow her students to work from their own misconceptions about the moon and how it orbits, to learn how it really moves.

Her students first form their own hypothesis about how the moon moves around the earth. They drawn on a regular piece of paper their hypothesis.

This drawing, done by Louis, shows a common misconception that many third graders have. Rather then drawing a spherical or elliptical orbit, Louis draws a circle to show the moon’s orbit.

Due to a grant from the Rotary, Archive Elementary has recently acquired a classroom set of laptop computers. Sanchez downloaded a free program called Celistia, which give kids a chance to explore the universe in a virtual setting. It includes 3D pictures of all of the planets, moons, their orbits and so forth.

Sanchez then has her students zoom in on Earth in the program.

After finding Earth students must access their prior knowledge of the moon to find it. Once they find it they must then zoom out so the can see both the Earth and the Moon.

After they fix their view like this, students start the simulation. Celistia allows users to ‘speed up’ time. Fast enough that they can see the moon as it moves through space.

While they watch this action, the students are challenged to draw how the moon is moving around the Earth.

Once they have completed their picture students are allowed to turn on a feature in Celestia which outlines the orbit which the Moon follows around the Earth. They check to see how closely their pictures have come to the reality.

Sanchez based her lesson on the third grade science standard one objective two which states that students should be able to “describe the movement of Earth and the moon and the apparent movement of other bodies through the sky.”


  1. I loved your article Jamie! It was very well written. The lesson was very clear and the pictures enhanced your description. Good job girl! :-)

  2. Jamie, your article is great! Very creative to describe it as an actual teacher's experience with kids. The lesson was clear and the pictures were great! Great job. :D

  3. Great article! You really have a hang on how to teach the kids about the moon and its orbits using Celistia! Great job!


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