The Classrooms of Karin Paquin, Suzi Ring and Stephanie Millette
St. John’s Catholic School and Brunswick Jr. High, Brunswick, Maine
a STREAM Project

The large integration project is a culmination of the student’s middle school year, showing students how each subject can be intertwined in the real world. The project begins about 4 weeks before the mission launch wherein I place students in groups, to learn to work together, to be group members. I provide roles they can play … and [give] weekly tasks to practice. One of the pre-tasks includes creating a group mission patch. These pre-tasks allow students to work out the hiccups of different personalities before beginning the Mars Colony project.

The project launches 7 weeks before the curriculum fair night where they will present their findings, 3D colony, infographics, and more to peers, other students in the school, teachers, parents, and the greater school community. The project includes broken-down tasks which include a pre-planned calendar and countdown timer to help keep them on track. They must work out disagreements and come together to agree on how they are going to accomplish all the tasks on time.

The first deliverable is their mission patch. Students [then] design a rough draft layout of their colony. They work through the brainstorming sheets provided on the SIMOC site specifically pages 16-22. This is their second deliverable for the project.

The next tasks depend on the grade. For the 7/8 graders they must complete Task 2 which is more physics focused and includes creating force diagrams for launching a payload, calculating an estimate of mission costs based on research they do about what it currently takes to ship materials to space.

The 5/6 grade group moves from Task 1 directly to Tasks 3 & 4 using the sheets provide on the SIMOC, site specifically pages 23-31. I give them the choices and have them choose four separate trials of data that they will then evaluate and adjust in the simulation. They know that they must have them pre-approved and that they are running the four simulations as they would any other lab by being sure to not change too many variables all at once.

After each simulation run, they must make slight adjustments to their variables to try to improve the outcome. The ability for students to work with the Engineering Design process through The SIMOC Mars habitat simulation brings a whole new level of learning into the classroom. It forces students to think critically and think creatively. It pushes their understanding of life on Earth to a new level while they must consider all things they would need on Mars they [may] not think about [here] on Earth.

From here students complete Tasks 5 and 6 which focus on Religion and History including questions about what makes up a civilization and how could you maintain your faith far from home. This includes deliverables 3 and 4 for the project.

Task 7 combines architectural design (ART class) with the fundamentals of the engineering design process to create a 3D model of the student’s colony design.

Task 8 has students apply what they are learning in the ELA classroom to create infographics and news articles of specific areas of their colony and a reflection of the project to date.

Task 9 takes students into the PE Classroom to train as an astronaut. Including strength, agility, cardio, and endurance.

Finally, Task 10 asks students to create the ultimate musical playlist to bring with them to their colony on Mars!

Student comments have included the following:

“It is amazing how every class is incorporated into our project.”

“It’s also fun how each person has a job that helps the team.”

“I can see it now how if our living area is too big and our greenhouse, we consume a lot of energy which can cause problems, I think less is more on Mars.”

“The mars colony STEM project is amazing. Though some tasks are hard, it is so much fun to figure out how to do them and learn more about space and colonizing Mars.”

This project summary was prepared by Karin Paquin, St. John’s Catholic School for grades 5-8 Science / Social Studies.