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Idaho School Incorporates ARISS into Curriculum


With more than 500 Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contacts conducted, thousands of students have experienced intriguing science and technology lessons -- plus the thrill of speaking with an astronaut who was on the International Space Station (ISS). According to ARRL ARISS Program Manager Rosalie White, K1STO, each school uses the ARISS events in different ways. From school to school, ARISS volunteers see a great range in the types of activities around the event, including integrating the activities into each grade level's curriculum. The lesson in common to all schools includes discussions on what Amateur Radio is, what ARISS is and how the worldwide ARISS Team works together.

White holds up Garfield Elementary School in Boise, Idaho as an example of how school administrators turned their September 2009 ARISS contact into a multi-faceted learning activity. "Students took part in a series of technology lessons, including an ARISS contact scheduled on September 24," she said. "The ARISS Team networked together for several weeks with a NASA team called WHEELS -- a NASA Exploration Experience traveling exhibit. The NASA team came to Boise to coach teachers with in-service technology workshops prior to the QSO."

Hundreds of students toured the hands-on traveling display, learning about space exploration and its benefits to society. The teachers wrote their lesson plans, applying the opportunities afforded by the ARISS coaches, to two Idaho Science Standards:

  • Science Standard 1.8 -- Understand Technical Communication, where students learned to read and perform multiple-step technical directions.
  • Science Standard 5.2 -- Understand the Relationship between Science and Technology, where students studied how technology helps us develop tools, plus some history lessons on technology having helped in developing tools.

Teachers also integrated the ARISS contact into studies meeting Idaho Social Studies Standard 5.1 -- An Understanding of Multiple Perspectives and Global Interdependence," where students explored connections between their community and other communities around the world.

White said that teachers also focused on wireless communication the lessons leading up to the QSO with the space station. Using curriculum supplied by ARRL's Education & Technology Program (ETP) through four "mini-units," students learned how communication is essential in our society and how it is aided through the use of technology, including the technology utilized to communicate with the astronauts:

  • Where's the Remote? -- The objective was for students to explore how dependent we have become on Wireless Technology by temporarily hiding a remote control device and observing the reactions of people who want to use the affected device.
  • Historical Review of Wireless Technology -- The objective was for students to determine the historical significance that Wireless Technology has played in our world and our culture.
  • Wireless Communication and Careers -- The objective was for students to explore job opportunities that require use of wireless technology, and learn how lucrative these jobs are, the working conditions, self-fulfillment experienced by people in the field, education requirements, promotion and advancement opportunities. Cameron Eagans, KI4KLW, a recent graduate of the area high school, did a hands-on model rocketry demonstration with the students and talked about different ham radio operations. He emphasized the importance of science and math classes and how they relate to his college studies and career goals.
  • Communication Through Codes (Symbols) -- The objective was for students to learn the fundamental concepts that are involved in developing codes to be used for communication, identify the major components of the wireless communication system and utilize codes students developed to communicate with other students. 

Every student in the school observed the ARISS QSO, with several students from each grade level interviewing the astronauts. "Teachers reported that after they began using the planned ISS contact in previous weeks to focus on curriculum objectives, students showed an increased interest in technology, math and science," White said. "One told us that 'Preparing for the contact with the space station has been an excellent way to provoke students' discussions. Questions from the students have provided opportunities for the teachers to stress the importance of math and science in expanding our knowledge and horizons.'"

You can find information detailing the process of applying for an ARISS contact for your school on the ARISS Web site.



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