from Come Fly With Me! – Exploring science through aviation and aerospace concepts

SUBJECT: Science &»
GRADE: 7,8,9
TIME: 60 minutes
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Student Investigation TEACHING STRATEGY Open Discovery Guided Discovery CONCEPTS; Psychological needs Living in Space
SKILLS: Hypothesizing Working in Groups Inference

Objective: To give students the opportunity to understand some of the psychological needs of living in an enclosed environment in space.

psychological needs illustration

Materials: Paper and pencils.

  1. Have students break up into groups of six or seven. Try to see to it that the groups are as heterogeneous as possible.
  2. Ask each group to spend ten minutes brainstorming the psychological needs of people living together in a closed environment. Ask them to imagine that the vehicle is occupied by the six or seven people in their group, that the space they occupy is approximately the size of an average classroom and they are to be in this space for twelve days. Each group should have someone jot down what the group comes up with.
  3. After they have spent 10 minutes brainstorming, inform them that the reentry ability of the capsule has malfunctioned and that ground control has determined that they cannot return for a year when they estimate the engineers will have a rescue vehicle built capable of picking them up and returning them to earth.
    All other areas of concern are taken care of: food is plentiful, all systems for pressurizing and decontamination, for example, are fine. Now, what other psychological considerations are there to be concerned with since the trip will take a whole year? Have them brainstorm and keep notes.
  4. Bring the groups together and share what each of them came up with. How did the two periods of time affect their lists of psychological concerns? Can they prioritize some of the concerns? How important are the psychological ramifications to a successful living arrangement in a closed environment in space?
  5. Finally, have the students work together in their groups to design a craft that is expected to be in space for two years. Assume all physical considerations have been met, but the groups are to imagine they are psychologists who are responsible for determining the most appropriate and emotionally healthy way to provide for the psychological ramifications of living in space for two years. How would they provide for these in the design of the craft? Ask each group to share their craft and the ideas they come up with with the larger group. Drawings or models with explanations would be fun.
  6. After the sharing, discuss whether there were differences in how each of the groups approached their task. Were there any differences in what was deemed as psychologically important to the members of the various groups? Were there differences in what members within groups felt was important? Is it helpful to have a meaningful cross-section of people with a variety of perceptions when groups engage in discussions of this sort? Have them check out how NASA approaches problem solving questions such as this.

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