Jewel of the Solar System: Part 8 – Celebrating Saturn and Cassini
In this activity, of one or more about 40-minute sessions, youth will:
- Design a culminating “celebration” display and event, based on their Saturn Discovery Logs full of notes and observations and on products produced from their working knowledge of Saturn and Cassini. They have sketches of spacecraft and probes, models, and test results.
- Invite their parents or classmates in for an event to view the displays and hear them talk about their work and their discoveries.
- Show an assessment of both their personal and knowledge growth from this unit through the way they choose to share their presentations and through the products themselves.
- Activity Goals: Learn how to organize their knowledge of science to create a display; learn how to communicate this knowledge to others; consolidate learning that has taken place during the program unit.
Note: This activity is part of the Jewel of the Solar System activity guide, which includes:
- Room with tables and chairs to create the displays; open space for display and presentations.
- Decide on the range of activities you can support the students to do (displays with art/written material, video, skit, etc.) and gather materials accordingly.
Equity/ Leveling the Playing Field
- The role models for the "Jewel of the Solar System" activities were chosen carefully. All of them work for NASA and do science and engineering related to the Cassini-Huygens mission. Just as important, the team includes women and men, people from very different backgrounds, interests, and skills.
- Encourage students that the message they want their presentations to convey to their families or peers is that science is a way of thinking and doing things, that everyone can do science, and that science and engineering can be many things requiring many different skills and abilities.
- Have your students incorporate the questions they had or still have into their presentations to encourage family and peers to be curious. Remind them that adventure begins in the mind! To learn and discover they need to be curious and persistent.
- Consider ending this program unit with a parent event. Identify a time and place for the displays when parents can be invited to see their children's work and hear their presentations.
- To help with the families' personal/social connection to the material, guide students to compare Saturn to what they and their families know about Earth: What is similar? What is different? Encourage them also to describe the enormity of the distance between Earth and Saturn.
- Consider a "career corner" with students describing the types of jobs it takes to run a robotic spacecraft mission- role model resources and career activities are found in the extension sections of each activity. Students may want to select those they find most interesting as part of their display or event.
- Consider inviting a NASA volunteer to your event. NASA has national volunteer networks of specially-trained members in local communities, who can serve as content experts, mentors, or speakers at events. See the Extensions/Resources section of this activity for links to these networks.
Synthesizing, communicating and presenting are essential skills in science and engineering careers and across NASA. Students, scientists and engineers alike discuss, display and publish their findings for peers, supporters and their community.
As mission results come in, Cassini-Huygens scientists discuss and share their findings and build on each other's work as the body of knowledge grows. As the mission proceeds, some questions are answered, but often more arise.
An important area of any NASA mission is Education and Public Outreach, which has the responsibility to translate the work of science and engineering into engaging and informative presentations for the educational system and the public.
Session 1 - Collect Information, Select Key Points, and Design Display/ Event
Note: This session may extend into additional sessions.
- Tell students that they have completed their journey to Saturn. Tell them that, as scientists and engineers, they have the opportunity to present their findings about Saturn and the Cassini-Huygens mission through prepared displays (or video project, student panel discussion, skit, etc.). Get their ideas about who they would like to invite to their presentation: family, another class, the whole school, their teachers, etc. Tell them they are going to collect ideas and pull together their final piece to present what they know.
- Have students go through all the work in their individual Saturn Discovery Logs, and pull out the key pieces of information they would like to present. Make sure that any pieces taken from a student's Saturn Discovery Log bear his or her name so that they can be returned to them after the presentation or event.
- First, work with the class to chart an outline for their presentation or event and lead them in the following questions:
- Who will they invite to this event?
- What do you think they will know about Saturn or the Cassini-Huygens mission?
- What are some of the questions you had, discoveries you made, interesting facts you learned and things you would like to know for the future that you think should be part of your presentation or exhibit?
- What should be our biggest message to share?
- How shall we organize all your ideas to follow this message?
- Activity 1 – Notice/wonder charts for Saturn and Cassini-Huygens images
- Activity 2 – Chart of size models for "Walk on the Wild Size," radical scale model of the solar system
- Activity 3 – Saturn/Cassini match game board and giant poster of Saturn
- Activity 4 – Multi-layer 3-D book of Saturn
- Activity 5 – Spacecraft to Saturn models and designs
- Activity 6 – Drawings of Titan and written description of spacecraft to explore it
- Activity 7 – Parachutes, probes, and "Parachuting Probe Packets"
- Now that you have had the chance to think and explore like scientists and engineers, what do you think you might enjoy doing further with NASA?
- What should be explored next?
Share the Findings
- This can be a presentation to the rest of the group, to other students in the program or for a family night. If the group does mostly art and written projects, they can be published in a book sent home to share with their families or hung as an exhibit in a hallway. If the teams choose to make presentations, put on a panel discussion, or perform a skit, they can be presented at a final performance on family night. Use your imagination and find a way to work this presentation into your end of the semester or end of the year festivities.
As you review the student's work, ask yourself the following questions:
- Where do I see growth in the students' understanding of Saturn and the Cassini-Huygens mission? Look at what they are producing and check for enhanced interest and understanding as the unit has progressed.
- Are there any misunderstandings that I would like to address? If so, ask the students to critique (and in the process they will correct) each other's displays. Remind them to be courteous to each other.
- Do I see growth in the students' curiosity and their ability to ask questions and research or experiment to find answers?
- Do I see growth in the students' ability to work in a team?
- Do I see growth in the students' ability to design, build and test models?
Information for Families
- Send home a letter to families describing the event and inviting them to attend!
- If appropriate, give families suggestions on websites to look at with their children, including any of the sites in these activities.
Careers at NASA
- NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is home for many of this generation's space explorers. They're not astronauts - they don't leave the home planet - but they are the creators and stewards of the spacecraft, rovers, telescopes, and other instruments that enable us to look into, and for, new worlds. They are the women and men who listen to signals from Mars and Saturn, who have reached beyond the limits of our solar system and beyond the limits of our imaginations. Many people contribute to the cause - the educators who teach the next generation of explorers, the folks who do the day-to-day tasks of an organization, and the folks who document and record the adventure.
- Create a chart that says "Jobs at NASA" and ask students to brainstorm what some of the jobs might be. Chart their answers and post the chart in the room.
- Investigate the actual job opportunities at NASA and JPL and the subjects that students should study in school.
Role Model Resource
Communication is essential in space, too! Belinda Arroyo is NASA's "air traffic controller", negotiating tracking communication time with the dozens of robotic space missions sprinkled around the solar system. She manages the Deep Space Network Planning and Scheduling organization, making sure the needs of the robotic spacecraft beyond Earth are met. Spacecraft commands are sent from Earth, and the spacecraft returns data to Earth on its health and data it has collected. NASA's Deep Space Network has three sites located in key areas around the world- Spain, Australia, and California. Each site has a 70-meter (230 foot) diameter antenna and a variety of smaller ones. "It's very exciting to be part of a flight project," says Belinda. "I really like learning about each mission, interfacing with the different people in the missions, and working with my team."
Read inspirational stories of women at JPL and NASA.
- NASA has several national networks of volunteers who are specially trained for working with the public and in educational settings. Instructions for requesting a local volunteer are on their websites:
- The Solar System Ambassadors are motivated volunteers across the nation, who communicate the excitement of JPL's space exploration missions and information about recent discoveries to people in their local communities.
- The Night Sky Network is a nationwide coalition of amateur astronomy clubs bringing the science, technology, and inspiration of NASA's missions to the general public. They share their time and telescopes to provide unique astronomy experiences at science museums, observatories, classrooms, and under the real night sky.
- The NASA Speakers Bureau is composed of engineers, scientists, and other professionals who represent the agency as speakers at civic, professional, educational and other public venues. Each year, NASA speakers provide hundreds of presentations to thousand of people.
- Sign up to get the latest education information from NASA
Taking Science to the Next Step
- Create a multimedia presentation: Have the students adapt their final writing projects with computer-based multimedia authoring tools for kids, and present the projects to each other or invited guests.
- Try these multimedia resources:
- Actual sounds recorded by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft
- Monthly video podcasts of what to see in the night sky and how it connects to NASA's exploration of the solar system.
- Students can visit the Cassini website to track the mission's progress and discoveries and give summary updates to the group.
- Compile the final writing projects into a whole-group book, and have students read from it to other rooms to a community organization, or invite the parents in for a reading.
- Publish! You may want to encourage students to share their final projects with a local newspaper or science museum.