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Liftoff Into SpaceLiftoff-Into-Space

  • Subject: Space Science
  • |
  • Grade(s): K-5
  • |
  • Duration: 1-2 class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will
  • Understand the history of the space race and space exploration as a whole.
  • Create a timeline detailing important events in the history of space exploration.
  • Write a descriptive article about an important event in space exploration.


  • Liftoff Into Space video and VCR, or DVD and DVD player
  • 6-inch strips of white construction paper, 1 per student
  • Pencils, erasers, and rulers
  • Lined writing paper
  • Computer with Internet access


  1. Review the history of space exploration with the class by watchingLiftoff Into Space . After watching the video, talk about the important events that led up to the current space program. How did space exploration begin? What were some significant events in the history of space exploration? What was the space race?

  2. Have students create a timeline detailing the history of rockets and space exploration. Ask students to use their rulers to make one-inch marks on their construction paper. Each inch represents a 10-year period, beginning with 1950 and ending with 2000. UsingLiftoff Into Space , print materials, and the Internet for research, have students write in at least one important event relating to space exploration that took place during each 10-year period. The following Web sites have helpful information:

  3. Once students have completed their timelines, ask them to choose one event they would like to research further. Tell students to imagine that they are journalists writing at the time this event took place and have students then write a one-page article about it. Each article must include the date of the event, details of what happened, and why it is important. Students may use print resources and the Internet to research their articles.

  4. After students have finished their articles ask for volunteers to read theirs aloud to the class. Talk about some of the events that students used on their timelines and discuss the space race. What was it? Why did it happen? How has space exploration changed since the 1960s? What have we learned through space exploration?

  5. Have students hypothesize about the future of space travel. What will we learn about outer space in the future? How will space exploration be different in 2010? In 2020?

  6. Display student timelines and articles in the classroom so that students may examine the events at their leisure.

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points: Students were highly engaged in class discussions; produced a complete timeline, including all of the requested information; and wrote an interesting and informative news article that met all the listed criteria.
  • Two points: Students participated in class discussions; produced an adequate timeline, including most of the requested information; and wrote a somewhat informative news article that met some of the listed criteria.
  • One point: Students participated minimally in class discussions; created an incomplete timeline; and wrote an incomplete or uninformative news article that met only one of the listed criteria.

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Definition: The gases that surround Earth or other planets
Context: The Earth's atmosphere protects us by blocking harmful rays from the sun.

Definition: The concept of traveling through unfamiliar territory to learn more about it
Context: A new era of Mars exploration is about to begin.

Definition: The force that pulls objects towards the center of the Earth, or towards any other physical body having mass
Context: Because there is little gravity to tug on the human body in outer space, it doesn't need to work as hard.

Definition: A vehicle used for traveling in space
Context: The Viking One and Viking Two spacecrafts landed on Mars in the late sixties.

Definition: An object that orbits Earth or another object in space
Context: Satellites orbiting Earth provide communication services, weather information, and perform scientific research.

Definition: The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes
Context: Scientists are developing the technology to recycle air and water on a spacecraft.

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National Academy of Sciences
The National Science Education Standards provide guidelines for teaching science as well as a coherent vision of what it means to be scientifically literate for students in grades K-12. To view the standards, visit

This lesson plan addresses the following science standards:

  • Science as Inquiry: Understandings about scientific inquiry
  • Physical Science: Motions and Forces
  • Earth and Space Science: Changes in earth and sky; Objects in the sky

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visit

This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • Technology: Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the individual
  • Science: Nature of Science — Understands the nature scientific inquiry
  • Historical Understanding — Understands the historical perspective
  • Language Arts: Writing — Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process, gathers and uses information for research purposes

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Tamar Burris, former elementary teacher and freelance education writer

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