Students choose their own angles on Mars

“My class is extremely hands-on, and especially at the beginning of the year, in a traditional setting, the experiments that we do just did not translate at all to an online format,” Science 7 teacher Joanne Abramson said. She began investigating the best ways to teach middle school students online and found extensive research being done in Beijing on this topic. “One of their takeaways was that students need to have a lot of choice in picking what they are doing, when they can turn it in, how they are going to do it,” Ms. Abramson explained.

Since Mars and NASA’s missions are in the news right now, Ms. Abramson and her students began talking and reading about Mars and also learning about ecology—the characteristics of life and what we need to live. “Then I asked, ‘Okay, if these are the things we need, how do we get that to work on Mars?’” Ms. Abramson said. “The idea was that once we started, the students could pick anything they wanted having to do with Mars colonization and do research on it and they could write a paper, do a Powerpoint presentation, create a video.”

The array of students' projects and the myriad directions the students took was astounding. Students looked at everything from the legality and ethics of colonizing Mars, to writing a science fiction story based entirely on research, to building an ecosystem for ants and a hydroponic ecosystem, to researching the physics and logistics of how to get to Mars. “It was amazing for me because I got all the different aspects of it from every single angle. I learned a whole bunch of things that I didn’t know, so I learned, too.”

What is Ms. Abramson most excited about now? “All the stuff is going to live in my classroom when this is done. I can’t wait to come back and have terrariums and all kinds of amazing projects in my room!”


"At The Gregory School, I am able to teach science the way it is meant to be taught. My students explore, investigate, experience and discover.  Because they are active participants in the learning journey, I am able to witness their endless curiosity and creativity. My students challenge and inspire me every day. I am incredibly lucky to be part of such a supportive and vibrant learning community."

Joanne Abramson, M.A,

Joanne Abramson has a M.A. in Educational Technology from California State University, Bakersfield and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley.

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