Since the beginning of the school year, Lucky - the stuffed animal who is a friend to first graders in teacher Lisa Warbritton’s class - has traveled on adventures to the homes of each student. The first graders’ journals are filled with details outlining each of his adventures. However, when students returned from winter break, Lucky was noticeably missing from the classroom.
Lucky was off on his greatest adventure yet, taking part in a project with Lisa Warbritton’s daughter Sasha Warbritton, a 2014 EPHS graduate and aerospace engineering student at the University of Minnesota. Lucky had the opportunity to travel on a weather balloon 100,000 feet in the air to near space through Warbritton’s project funded by the MN Space Grant Consortium.
The UMN engineering student then spent a week visiting Warbritton’s classroom to co-teach hands-on science and math activities including measurement, gravity, and parachutes that were related to Lucky’s adventures. The 4Cs of critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity were built into each of the lessons.
“I loved seeing the students so energized when they entered the classroom each morning. They ran in with new, very insightful questions and comments about the previous day’s learning,” Lisa Warbritton said. “They obviously continued to think about the lessons well after the school day was over and shared their learning with their families."
Using the steps of the scientific method, students used observation techniques and determined Lucky was above the clouds, which meant he was close to space. They then measured different objects to have a better understanding of how far the distance of 100,000 feet really was; they measured everything from desks to themselves to the classroom. Students also learned how a parachute allowed Lucky to safely travel back to land following his experiments in the weather balloon.
As part of the unit, the first graders also created electronic scientific journals and recorded audio of what happened during Lucky’s adventure to share with their parents and the third graders who are their class buddies.
“I really enjoyed seeing the students’ excitement throughout the week. They were always engaged and interested in the things I had to show them,” Sasha Warbritton said. “My passion is scientific research and discovery, and then also encouraging and inspiring the next generation of scientists to share my passion. STEM is growing at an astounding rate and I’m glad to see that these first graders are even more excited about science and engineering after this project.”