An Integrated Math/Science Lesson

Objective: This lesson was created to enable students in middle school to research the possibility of sustaining life in outer space. These students would be about 11 or 12 years old. The students would address the questions: What essentials would be necessary for maintaining the space station, what would it look like and why, how would food be supplied and replenished, what health factors might need to be addressed, how would they fuel the space station and various other instruments, how would families live, would there be schools, what kinds of recreation would there be, what rooms would there need to be and how would they escape in case of an emergency?

Materials: Materials depend on what the students decide they need to build their space station. Some suggestions maybe aluminum foil, carton boxes, Styrofoam containers, empty paper towel rolls, clear plastic, tubing, spray paint, things electrical if they like and many more. There are no set guidelines as to their choice of materials. Any material, which is safe to handle, would be acceptable.

Procedure: Students will need about two to four weeks to complete this project. It depends on how many hours they have to work each week. Students may wish to work on part of their project at home. This would be an excellent opportunity to get the parents involved in the space station design.

Session 1:

  1. Discuss with students what a space station would probably look like that could sustain life in space for a prolonged period of time. The students need to come up with a hypothesis regarding what type of vehicle they would need and what would be the possibility of their design being successful. This is a concept strongly emphasized in the middle grades.
  2. Students will work in-groups of 3 to 4 students. Students will continue the process of scientific method in their approach to designing their space station. The students may make observations of existing space stations or visit a space facility or research on the Internet developing their technology skills.
  3. Each pod of students will discuss among themselves what they need to bring to school in order to build their space station. The students will need to analysis the materials they think are important to the design and functions of their space station. The data keeper should make sure they take notes of what contributions each pod member is making in the analysis process. Students will evaluate the results and come to group decision on their approach to the final design.
  4. One member will be the manager and assign jobs and help with all areas of research and materials and design. The jobs usually include a recorder or data keeper, a monitor to collect materials, and an engineer to assemble main parts of the space ship. The students can come up with the jobs they think are essential. The students should be aware that there are different ways to evaluate what is important and that each project needs a different approach to the scientific method.

Session 2:

  1. The members of each pod will draw their ideas of a space station on paper as a rough draft. It will then be drawn on the computer after the pod agrees on the design. (CAD) (computer assisted design)
  2. One member of the pod can do research on space station designs. The student should collect the bibliographies on note cards as he goes. Another student can research on the Internet or use computer programs for information on space ship designs.
  3. One member of the pod will be the data keeper and keep track of how they are progressing. The data keeper should also keep track of the problems they are encountering and daily logs of the group’s progress. The teacher will help with the conflict resolutions and any other advise or intervention necessary.
  4. All members of the pod are responsible for collecting materials from outside the school and bringing them to the classroom. The teacher may also contribute to the space stations by having a collection of recyclable items, paint, toothpicks, etc. The teacher may find this a great time to discuss the importance of recycling.


Session 3:

  1. The students will formulate their space ship designs on the computer until the pod agrees upon the design. (CAD)
  2. Show the design to the teacher and explain what materials they intend to use and how they intend to build their space station.

Session 4:

The teachers involved in this project are Los Angeles Unified School District teachers, Jeanne Vargas and Alice Hayward, and the concepts and skills development are based on the Los Angeles Unified School District Standards and middle grades. The main concepts addressed in this project are scientific method, hypothesizing, analyzing, synthesizing, drawing conclusions and evaluating. This lesson has endless possibilities as an integrated lesson. The following are some examples of how to implement some of other disciplines.

ART: (visual)

Students will use a wide variety of media in building their models, using techniques and processes based on the elements and principles of visual arts. They must take balance and form into consideration.


Be aware of behavior that reduces the risk of disease and speeds recovery from illness. Apply knowledge of ways to avoid accidents. Compose a health handbook for the space station. What the occupants should be aware of and what they should avoid. How will medications be administered, will a hypodermic needle work in space?


Gather, identify, question, and evaluate different ideas, values, behaviors, and institutions in order to construct historical interpretations and solutions. Social structure of society is addressed when students figure out how the floor plans should be arranged. Geography and anthropology are addressed in the use of personal cultures and backgrounds. What would a space station look like if an ancient people designed it?


The student uses varied sentence structure, precise vocabulary, appropriate tense, and punctuation to maintain clarity and develop an individual writing style. The student uses the steps of the writing process in written work.

The student will use oral language skills such as voice articulation, eye contact, and gesture appropriate to communicate effectively to an audience.

  1. The student writes for a variety of audiences and purposes using well-organized paragraphs with adequate and appropriate information. The students will organize their materials and see if they have most of what they need before they begin, then they can start assembling their space stations.
  2. The teacher will walk around and ask questions, offer help and take notes on how they are working together. The teacher can also make suggestions as necessary and help with ideas when students are having a difficult time. It may be necessary to be an arbitrator at times.
  3. Make sure the data keeper is taking down all information needed for the future building and assembly. The journal must also be kept of daily progress.

Session 5:

  1. Make sure all space stations can stand on their own and can be handled. The final projects should be painted and labeled. Since it is suppose to be an International Space Station, it should probably include international flags on the outside.
  2. When the space stations are completed, have the students write up their conclusions on the computer. Was their hypothesis correct? Why or why not. Does their finished product resemble their computer-assisted drawing? Included in this written report should be the notes from the data keeper, the print out of the original drawing of the space station, the research papers collected and other notes that they have kept. It would also be great if they could all take a picture together with their finished project. With a Quick Time Video program students in various classrooms throughout the world could view students and their projects. The teacher should grade these notes and research papers and daily progress reports. They will be so different in content it would be difficult for the students to correct as a class. The teacher may feel that this may be something that is just checked off to make sure that it was done.

Session 6:

  1. Each pod is to make an oral presentation to the class explaining the functions of each part of their space station. The students in each pod must explain how life is maintained in space, how they receive their supplies, docking procedures, language problems, and many other functions with regard to life on an international space station. The students in the class are encouraged to ask reasonable questions of the pod.

Session 7:

  1. Students will evaluate each space station and presentation. The class will formulate a matrix to use in the evaluation process. Usually they decide on at least three areas in which to grade; information, presentation, appearance and whatever else they decide is important. After all the pods have presented, the final evaluations could be made into graphs using the Microsoft Excel program, and printed out for all to see.

Session 8:

1. The pod must also turn in a written report. This project will be entirely generated on the computer. It can be an "on going", project as the space stations are being built. It would be nice for each pod to give their space station a name. This report is to contain materials used, design ideas, computer drawing, computer information on life in space, research documents, bibliographies and the procedure they followed. They are also to include any trouble they encountered while preparing their international space station. The students and the teacher will help develop a matrix to evaluate these reports. The teacher can encourage the class to include: content, research, bibliographies, appearance, illustrations, information, etc. Have at least four students evaluate each report before passing it on to the next student. The last student will convert the grades into number values, add the columns, average the totals and put the final grades.

Session 9:

  1. Each student will write a story about his or her life on the international space station. It would be interesting for each child to use their own ethnicity and culture as they relate the story of how they arrived and from what country. These stories will take place in the year 2012. With the knowledge the students have acquired in making their space station, they can now synthesize the information and apply their knowledge to the future space station. They will add any modifications they will need for the future space station.
  2. Some students can be working on a rough draft while others are working on typing their stories on the computer. If the groups prefer, the pods can write a group story, or two students can collaborate on a story about their life in their space station in the year 2012. This activity can also work as a center activity in the room that you have the students rotate to weekly. Another idea is to have the rough draft as a homework assignment. These future space stations will not be made in class.

Session 10:

  1. During this session the students will work on another story.

What is their country like and where it is located? How were they able to afford the trip? Where did they get the funding and how did they prepare themselves for their journey into space. These stories are to be computer generated and illustrated with pictures they scanned of their family or from pictures from the Internet. Relatives may also be used as a good resource for information.

Session 11:

  1. The students will illustrate their stories. They may use whatever is available in the classroom. Some suggestions would be tempera paints, colored pencils, watercolors, crayons, and any combination of media.
  2. For grading purposes we call this the " visual ". The written work should always include at least one visual.

Session 12:

  1. Each pod will now present their international space station to the class.
  2. Their visual will be shown at this time also. Each pod member must have something to contribute to the oral presentation, or they will get a lower grade.
  3. The teacher will select several students to be the photographers to take turns filming the presentations.
  4. This is a great presentation to have ready when parents will be visiting, Back to School Night, or Open House.

Session 13:

  1. In this session students will draw a background of the space station. It can be done with colored pencils or watercolors. Not too dark, covering all white areas of the paper.
  2. It would be best not to use crayons or tempera for this project.

Session 14:

  1. Have students write poems about their space station. What does it mean to them? How do they feel about life in space? What did they learn?
  2. Pod members will check each other for errors.
  3. Teacher will give the final okay.
  4. Have students write their poems over the background of the space station in pencil, check, then go over with a fine point black felt tip marker. Very effective.
  5. Bind the poems together into a book.



Supporting evidence.

  • The student gathers, evaluates and integrates information from multiple sources such as firsthand experiences, computers, and library/multimedia centers, to prepare reports and presentations.
  • Students will create a research paper, story, and a poem/reading and following directions, spelling, capitalization, punctuation, grammar, research skills/ reading in the content area/expository writing, creative writing, free verse poetry, and oral language. 


  • Use geometric concepts of space and form to construct, describe and compare the properties of the space module.
  • Record keeping, using notes, graphs, etc.
  • Collect, organize and interpret statistical data and solve problems using data to make appropriate and useful decisions.
  • Select and use appropriate technology, such as calculator, computers with software models to solve problems; develop and apply strategies to solve problems and explain solutions using hands-on materials, trial and error, analysis of patterns and sequences; arithmetic reasoning.
  • Interpret and use logical statement to make connections among mathematical concepts and relate them to concepts in other content areas and daily life.
  • Apply concepts of probability.


  • Use and understand scientific method.
  • Use concepts learned in life, earth, and physical science to make self contained living environment.
  • Use scientific thinking to ask questions and give reasonable explanations after observing and comparing and communicate predictions, data, and conclusions about the natural and physical world using language, picture, and graphs.
  • Identify and describe physical concepts of force, motion, and energy transformations and relate findings to Newton’s Laws of Motion; predict the effects of gravity, density, and electromagnetism on the behavior of matter.
  • Identify relevant evidence, reason logically and create scientific questions; distinguish between fact and opinion when analyzing.
  • Use available scientific equipment effectively, including the Internet, to gather and share data.
  • Identify and research science concepts involved in real-world problems; establish important connections among the disciplines.


  • The students will become familiar with basic ClarisWorks word processing skills.
  • The students will edit using "Check Document Spelling"
  • The students will change the size, style, color, and type of font.
  • The students will be able to use drawing and painting programs.
  • The students will be able to produce a graph.
  • The students will be able to scan a print or photo and transfer it to their text.
  • The students will be able to print documents.
  • The students will improve their keyboard skills.

Jeanne Vargas and Alice Hayward May 1999

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