Hey Mars, wait for us!

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It is a STEAM project that includes multidisciplinary topics about Mars. Students did brainstorming and shared ideas on how it would be possible to form a liveable life on it. There are many aims, such as: improving language skills, creating awareness about Mars and building friendships among the students in the project by using English as the language of communication. Students conducted research about this planet and got help from their science and art teachers. There are six main topics: Let’s get to know Mars, Water on Mars, Climate and atmosphere of Mars, Agriculture on Mars, Building houses on Mars and lastly Building a city on Mars. During the activities, students did experiments trying to produce oxygen and build houses and a city with the help of the Technology and Art teachers. At the end of the project, we created an e-book as the common product.

The main goal of the project is to develop the students’ creative thinking. Centred activities, interactive and collaborative methods, research-examination, discovering, problem-solving, experiments, brainstorming, scanning sources, gathering information, analysing collected data, peer learning, and sharing ideas have been used as well. The pre-test was done before starting the main activities. It was applied in order to measure the background knowledge of students. We use an enjoyable game tool: “quizizz”. It was challenging and fun at the same time. The warm-up activities (watching the film “Martian”, playing two mobile games about Mars, and discovering the website “Access Mars with Google”) were done in order both to arouse their curiosity and to get them inspired.

There were six main topics (Let’s get to know Mars, Water on Mars, Climate and Atmosphere of Mars, Agriculture on Mars, Building houses on Mars, Building a city on Mars), that’s why the students were divided into 6 mixed teams. Each teacher became a mentor for a team. The mentor teacher’s role was to ask guiding questions, to make the topics more understandable and gave tasks to each member in line with these questions. Students researched, gathered information, created new ideas and wrote them in the forum of their topics. They got help from their other teachers, too. Mentors suggested to students some useful websites, such as the websites of NASA or TUBITAK. They tried to find some solutions to the problems of creating life conditions on Mars. They conducted an experiment about producing oxygen, and designed draft Martian houses and cities by getting help from their art teacher. When all the tasks were completed, they transferred their data to Google slides to create our common product. Each team had different Google slide pages, so we created six common products. All were put together in an e-book. At the end, we conducted a post-test via quizizz again to see their improvement. We were glad to find out the students’ knowledge improved well.

This project includes multidisciplinary STEAM activities. We integrated the activities with objectives of English, Geography, Biology, Chemistry, Technology, IT and Art lessons. All teachers were glad to help students. Students used the English language to communicate with their partners and wrote their data and ideas in English. Activities made during the projects were integrated with the learning outcomes: Icebreaking activities, Greeting and meeting people, Expressing likes and dislikes, and Describing places (school and town introduction). Mixed team activities: Stating an event, time and date in the past (expressing NASA studies about Mars), describing a process (writing the process of the experiment they conducted), making simple suggestions (trying solutions to the problems related to water and atmosphere of Mars, agriculture, building Martian houses and cities, forming rules for sustainable life on Mars). Learning outcomes of Physics: Examining the studies of NASA and TUBITAK on Mars; Learning outcomes of Biology: Agriculture topics; Learning outcomes of Geography: atmosphere on Mars- types of climate; Learning outcomes of Chemistry: introducing elements, doing electrolysis experiment on Mars atmosphere (producing oxygen) with chemistry teacher; Learning outcomes of Art lesson: Making Interior and exterior drawings (drawing draft Martian houses and city plans with the help of art teacher). Basic competencies and skills were integrated during the activities: Foreign Language Literacy and Competencies (All activities were done using English), Maths, Science and Technology (doing research in chronological order, making experiments), IT skills (students used IT and web tools during the activities, they respected the surfing rules), Students learnt how to learn (time was used properly, activities were made in time), Art literacies (drawing Martian draft houses and city plans), Cultural Awareness (introducing themselves, their schools and cities).

Both partners and students communicated effectively. Communication was organized by teachers in WhatsApp, online meetings and twinspace. Students were registered by their teachers to twinspace so that they could communicate with other students, upload their videos, photos or other things and follow the sharings of the other partners by using computers in the IT class. Forums for mixed team activities and online meetings were used too. They used a collaborative web tool, Google slides for creating the common product. They did pre-test and post-test with a game tool, quizizz altogether. They played the post-test game in a live meeting. Also there was a task distribution among teachers and students. Each teacher became a mentor for each mixed team. As mentor teachers, we gave tasks to each member in line with these questions, so we distributed the tasks among pupils. When all the tasks were completed, they transferred their data to Google slides to create our common product. Each team had different Google slide pages, so there were created six common products. All these mini products were put together in an e-book.

The results of teacher evaluation have shown that teachers have achieved the goal of the project. It was a great experience as both students and teachers learnt how to collaborate, discovered new web tools and improved teaching-learning skills, all of us learnt about real communication, intercultural collaboration, knowing different cultures and increasing knowledge of English. This project is a good opportunity to open the classroom to the real world and improve the ability to teach cross-curricular skills. Both teachers and pupils filled out evaluation forms and stated their personal opinions about the project. The results of the evaluation for pupils show that they’re so enthusiastic. This project improved their English language skills, they learnt how to be creative, how to communicate and collaborate with their partners, and how to develop critical thinking. They also learnt how to use ICT in class and discovered new tools. They want to collaborate with the same team on other eTwinning projects. The feeling of self-confidence and entrepreneurship of the pupils increased. They had the chance to use their creativity and significantly improved verbal and written communication skills. They became little writers and researchers and improved their learning skills. When we compared the results of the pre-test and post-test, we saw that their knowledge related to Mars deepened, and the average score of the post-test was higher than the pre-test results.

Overall, the project has had a positive impact on my school. Many teachers and students want to attend eTwinning projects in the near future. We exhibited our project by arranging an exhibition at our school. The students that were involved in this project presented it to other students. Information, photos and videos were published on the school website and Facebook page. Students shared the information of the project on their Facebook pages as well.

Picture provided by the author, attribution CC-By

Gabriela Stan is an English teacher at Gymnasium School no.7 Petrosani, Hunedoara county, Romania. She became involved in eTwinning projects this year. She attended her studies at the University of Alba Iulia, Foreign Languages Faculty (Romanian-English). She is also a Geology engineer. Her hobbies are reading, painting, dancing, listening to music and travelling. This is her first eTwinning project and she considers it a great success.

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