The Moon Project – Project Based Learning

A blue moon as observed in Johannesburg

After being approached at the end of last year to join in the Moon project by Walter S. Smith, Helen DeVitt Jones Professor and Chairperson, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education, Texas Tech University, I agreed, knowing that my then, year 7 students, would be great ones to use and participate. Unfortunately, when 2010 came around, I was not teaching these students. So, I thought I would use my year 9/10 ICT elective students. Although they were older than the students being sought, I felt it would be an interesting challenge for them.

Upon introducing the project on Friday, period 6 (last lesson of the school week) and telling students what it involved, I gave out the parent permission forms, student booklets and asked the students complete the online test etc. When informing students that they would need to observe the moon nightly, over a period of two months I was met with loud groans and opposition. Wishing I had never involved them and wondering how I could tell the organisers that we no longer wanted to be involved, imagine my surprise when on the next Monday before school even began, I was nearly tripped up by many of those same students telling me that they could not see the moon on the weekend. Over the day, I was approached by parents saying they had gone out with their students and also could not find it. This was early Feb, when there was a new moon! A year 11 student who was in the computer lab when the project was handed out, found the moon at 3am in the morning when he went off to milk cows as part of his weekend work. Another lad got up at 2am to see if he could  see the moon.

Since then, I have made many interesting observations.

  • Despite the students being older than the target group, they have been really interested.
  • Many of the older students have decided to follow the moon online rather than natural observation!
  • Discussions have centred around the use of the moon and the moon phases eg some boys in the class watch the moon to know when is the best time to go gummy shark fishing, others grandparents plant vegetables by the moon, others watch the moon for the best surf for surfing etc.
  • Students are going out and photographing the moon
  • One girl is watching it through her telescope.

We are hoping to add some of our observations, photographs, discussions and general research findings to a wiki space.

 Students are now in the process of writing their first essay on their observations. Thank you to the organizers,  Dr Walter Smith and his student Allison Griest, for making this project available to us. It has had some amazing learning outcomes for me and my class and proves the power of project based learning.

The moon Feb 20th

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