Mission Patches

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SWBAT explain how NASA uses images on mission patches to communicate elements of the flight and create their own mission patches for science class.

Big Idea

Science class is a mission to learn more about your world. Use a mission patch to share some interesting facts about you and what you would like to learn in science

The Need for the Lesson

Our science fair is just before winter break. Students will need to select a topic and begin their experiments in just a few short weeks. How will I help those students who have no ideas? I refer back to this first day lesson. The mission patches help students focus on their learning goals for science. Eureka!  A gold mine of ideas for science fair. Additionally students will share a few facts about themselves so these too can help me to help them pick a science fair topic that is personalized to the student.

Investigation Preparation & Summary

5 minutes

This lesson is a first day, getting to know you activity for myself and the students. By creating mission patches, students are focusing on their own learning goals for their 7th grade science year. They are letting me know what questions they have about their world they are hoping to answer this year with investigations in the classroom (SP1 - Asking Questions and Defining Problems).

All of my students are required to have science journals. This is the first entry in their journal for the year. 

A complete materials list can be found in the resources section.

Students in Action

45 minutes

Creating a mission patch is a first day activity in science 7. 

I tell students that they will be keeping a science journal of their learning throughout the year in 7th grade science. Material in your journal will be artifacts that represent your journey, working as a scientist this year.

I explain that NASA creates mission patches for each launch into space. The mission patches tell us a bit about the goals of the mission and identifies the astronauts who will be part of the mission.

Let's take a look at some mission patches and the meaning behind each of the elements.

Image from NASA link (here) to Mission Patch Explorer

If we have access to computers during the first class, I provide students with the link to the interactive mission patch explorer seen below. If not, we will take a look at the mission patches as a class. Our learning goal is the see that the mission patches are not just designs, each of the elements has a meaning and a purpose.

Next I challenge students to develop their own mission patch for grade 7 science.

Think of science as a launch. What would you like to accomplish or learn about your world in 7th grade science? You will add five images that represent your learning goals. Also in addition to your learning goals, you will add five images that represent something about you. 

The mission patches can be any shape.

I draw a few sample images about me for my students. I draw simple images using stick figures. I do not want students to focus on the art as much as communicating the ideas. Students should not spend a great deal of time working through detailed drawings.

If the students seem puzzled, and some classes do, we will brain storm some ideas for each of the two sets of images. What would you like to learn about in 7th grade science? Volcanoes, chemistry, engineering are common ideas. What would you like others to know about you? What sports I play, my family, hobbies are all common ideas.

Next I instruct students to write two paragraphs explaining the images. The first paragraph will explain the images about you. The second paragraph will explain the images about your learning goals for science.

This is a good strategy to help me learn a great deal about the students. In this video, i explain why the mission patch offers great connections and insight to my students as learners.