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1st-graders demonstrate knowledge in classroom space museum

POSTED: March 17, 2011 7:00 a.m.
Seraine Page/

McKenzie Harrison and Warren Bethea, both 6, wait to teach an incoming class about the stars. First-grade teacher Amy Ryan of Diamond Elementary transformed her room into a space museum as a way to allow her students to have a hands-on learning experience about outer space.

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For a day, students in Amy Ryan’s first-grade class pretended to be teachers, knowledgeable of all things space.
Ryan transformed her Diamond Elementary classroom into a space museum and invited about a dozen classes to come through and learn from shadow boxes and posters. About every 10 minutes, Ryan’s students spoke with other students in the school, spewing off space facts that they had memorized.
“Their immersion in this whole activity (has been my favorite part),” Ryan said. “Their knowledge base is so much deeper because of the hands-on experience.”
Throughout the day, parents stopped in to learn about how many rings certain planets have, why stars are important to our universe and what colors stars can be. Twenty students sat at long tables, waiting with their shadow boxes filled with space “artifacts” and space fact books to chat with parents and peers.
Dennis Alexander, 7, was happy to share the factual storybook that he created with anyone who would listen. Alexander read from his handmade book where he had sketched rocket ships and stars with crayons. He announced that the sun is a star and that constellations are little star designs that can be seen on a darkened sky.
“Stars are important because if we don’t have stars, what would we see at night?” Alexander said. “We wouldn’t see constellations. That’s why we need stars.”
Ryan combined science and writing skills by lecturing about the Earth, sun and moon and then had her students write nonfiction books based on what they learned.
“We started learning about the Earth, sun, moon and day and night in mid-January and started learning about the conventions of nonfiction by the end of January,” Ryan said.
“The children picked their own topics related to space, and I modeled webbing, bulleting, questioning (who, what, where, when) answering in complete sentences, note taking, layout for pages and researching. The children used books and the Internet to gather their own information about their topics.”
By inviting other classes to her room, Ryan said her students could be teachers for a day by relaying the facts they learned about space. The opportunity also strengthened their speaking skills, she said.
“Something that’s made my heart smile is seeing the other teachers come in,” she said. “They were all very excited about space.”

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