June 22, 2013

Summer has officially started and our project is complete. I was thrilled to receive a copy of OFF TO THE COSMOS, the book 5A created with their teacher, Susan Anderson.

Click OFF TO THE COSMOS to read the book which took much hard work, dedication, creative thinking, collaboration, perseverance, critical thinking, scientific understanding, language arts skills, and imagination to create. Congratulation to 5A and Susan Anderson for their impressive work!

June 4, 2013

Hello Class!
I love the title you chose for your book, OFF TO THE COSMOS: Exploring the Universe! And I cannot wait to read it and enjoy your artwork. A question came up about citing the websites you used to do your research. It is essential that you include all your references, so you should make a page at the end of the book that lists all the web addresses you used, as well as any books you referred to while researching your probe.

I commend you all for taking on this HUGE project and seeing it through to the end. There is such great satisfaction in completing a book, and I am thrilled that you are experiencing this feeling. I know from my own experience that the final days of work on book can be the most exciting and also the most stressful. I always ask myself, did I make any mistakes, did I forget to include something, should I read it through one more time? Then, when my editor sends me the final proof sheets, I can't make any more changes and I have to let go of the project. This is why I always have another book project I am working on. For example, I just finished a revision of my book about spiders, but I know what my next book will be about (remember those very old trees?). You are at that stage now! I think your next project is summer vacation and hopefully you will be reading some nonfiction books this summer...and maybe you will write in a journal or take notes on things you notice in the world around you. Hope you get a chance to look at the stars!


May 31, 2013

Hello Class!
I am curious... is your book finished? What did you decide about the art? You must be looking forward to summer vacation. I hope you have the chance to go outside on a dark night and look at the stars and planets! Here's a place to get you started: StarDate.org

Keep me posted.

May 20, 2013

Hello again!
My June copy of National Geographic Magazine came today and this month's poster is called Cosmic Journeys . It shows the paths of some of the probes you have been studying. Maybe your library has a copy that you can look at. It's also an interesting artistic interpretation, which might be inspirational as you think about artwork for your book.

May 20, 2013

Hello Class!
Thank you for sharing the "big ideas" of your research. Your class has studied such a wide variety of probes with many goals for understanding the Universe, and through your process I have learned some new things (and will learn a lot more when I read your book!). One of the questions you asked on Friday had to do with how you will illustrate the book. You were thinking about creating a collage, and also using NASA photos. After thinking about the question over the weekend, I had an idea you might consider. Since drawing the space probes accurately would be very difficult, even for a professional artist, I think including a NASA photo or diagram to show each probe along with the written description would be the best approach to convey that information. However, perhaps you should also include some original art that expresses the "big ideas" we talked about on Friday. All together, your individual pages create the "big picture" of NASA's work over many years. So a big picture (literally) would be a creative and inspiring way to show this. For example: Juno's (hope I spelled your name right) big idea was to understand the origin of the solar system--a painting or drawing of the sun could represent this idea. Christy said the goal of Pioneer 11 was to study Saturn and its moons, so she could create a drawing of Saturn. Isabella and Hans wrote about the International Space Station and how it allows scientists to live and work in space--there are many images that come to mind for me, such as flags of different countries, symbols of scientific study such as a microscope, or astronauts floating in a space lab! I am picturing a collage of many images ranging from asteroids, to clouds, to planets, supernovas, stars, and the big bang! The challenge would be fitting all your work on the jacket, so my suggestion would be to measure out how big the jacket of the book will be, and then figure out how big each of your drawings should be to so they all fit. Good luck finishing all the parts of your book. I can't wait to see it!

May 17, 2013

I am so excited about our visit later today. It is very helpful for me to see your process of organizing the book. You are right, there are many decisions that need to be made at this point, and since there are many authors of this book you will need to agree on a few things, especially the title. You are experiencing exactly the same decision making process all authors encounter. Right now I am finishing my next book and I am working on the information that goes in the back of the book. I will include a glossary. To make a glossary I go through the book and write down every scientific word and then go to several dictionary sources to write a definition/ I look in the dictionary, and also in scientific texts to make sure that it is accurate and easy to understand for my readers. My publisher creates the index, so I don't have to do that. I am organizing my references, and also deciding which references would be useful for young readers to use if they want to learn more about the subject.

Writers want to include as much information about where they found the information included in the book in a reference section. Sometimes nonfiction writers include "source notes." These are detailed descriptions of the source of every fact. Source notes can be arranged in the order the fact appears in the book, or by the kind of fact being stated. Character sources would list the sources dealing with people who are featured in the book--these could include a biography about a character. Primary sources are the "firsthand" accounts such as an autobiography, letters, official documents, and even scientific photographs. All photographs need to be credited in a separate section called "photo credits" that lists the source, the copyright date if available, and the pages on which they appear. If quotations are used (a character's exact words) these should also be referenced. The acknowledgements section is a short note from the author that thanks people who helped create the book--everyone from editors, experts, librarians, teachers, friends, and family members who helped support the author's work. I also love reading the dedications in books where authors share who the book is "for." Did you read my dedication in Cars on Mars? Writing a dedication can be simple, for example "For my mom," or it can take much thought as to what to say and how. There can also be a little mystery in a dedication that makes the reader want to know more: who are Miela and Sasha? How old are they? A dedication can include specific individuals or groups of people. In Bug Shots, I acknowledged my favorite teachers ever (the world's most wanted teachers), and all teachers, because teachers are awesome people!! Will your book have a dedication?

May 6, 2013

Thank you for sharing some of your work here on the wiki, and also sending more writing to my email! I have read them all, and have learned something from each story. Lukas, I like your title: The Life of COBE. It makes me remember that these explorers are an extension of the human being so we can make discoveries in space. Fletcher's story mentions "sling shotting" in space which is a topic I want to learn more about since I have included it in my book proposal about the Voyagers. In fact, one of my chapters is called "Sling Shot in Space." Reese, I can just picture Pioneer 10 "resting in peace" or should we say rest in space? I also love your heading "over and out." Yes, the mission is over and the spacecraft is definitely "out" there! Aisley, you introduced me to HEAO-2 which I had never heard of! You explain what the telescope was doing in a way I understand, and I like the image you created about its spiral back to Earth. Hans, I love the detail about the salt and pepper...it's these kinds of little details that capture the reader's imagination and keeps us reading! Everyone uses salt and pepper on their food, but we would never think that it would need to be in a different form in space, because we have never been in space. The reader stops and thinks: "I wonder what else we take for granted on Earth that is different when in space!" Keep up the great work, everyone, and see you soon!

April 28, 2013

Hello Class!

Thank you for visiting on Friday. I decided to follow-up on Tim’s question about the experiments and equipment aboard Ulysses. URAP is a complicated experiment consisting of six instruments. This information is very complex and instead of trying to explain URAP I would recommend that Tim writes about the Ulysses mission in terms of its overall goals. Here is quote from the Ulysses website (http://urap.gsfc.nasa.gov/ulysses.html#):

The Ulysses spacecraft is an international project to study the poles of the sun and interstellar space above and below the poles. The mission, managed jointly by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the European Space Agency, is designed to study three major topics in solar physics: the sun, the solar wind and interstellar space. The instruments of Ulysses will study those phenomena at nearly all solar latitudes, but the most important work will be at high solar latitudes, near the polar regions of the sun that have not been explored by other spacecraft.

I have highlighted scientific words that Tim would need to explain in his writing. He could compare the sun to the Earth when he is explaining the meaning of latitude and the polar regions. The Earth has a north and south pole and latitude are imaginary lines around the earth, such as the equator.

Tim could use the information in the above paragraph to help him ask additional questions about the project such as:

Why is the most important work at high solar latitudes?

What do scientists hope to learn about the sun?

What is solar wind and does it affect the Earth?

I also noticed there was a link to activities that students can do to help them understand waves and triangulations: http://urap.gsfc.nasa.gov/triangulation.html

It is often very helpful when researching a topic to conduct your own research or experiment to help you understand a difficult concept. After learning about triangulation Tim could describe how this technique is used by Ulysses.

So, in summary, don’t write about something you don’t understand. And remember, you aren’t expected to understand a lot of the difficult information on the NASA websites. Focus on the “big ideas “behind your mission. The “big idea” I focused on in Cars on Mars was “Follow the Water.” What is the big idea for the Ulysses mission?

Next time we meet I would like everyone to share the “BIG IDEA” for their mission! Maybe you can post the BIG IDEAS on the wiki first, then we can talk about them next time. All the BIG IDEAS put together in your class book will be a great introduction to what scientists are trying to learn about the planets, the sun, the stars, and outer space.

See you soon!

April 23, 2013

Hello Mrs. Anderson and 5A!

Thank you for posting your drafts and revisions. You have been working hard and learning a lot!

I'm looking forward to reading about Pioneer 10. Why is it called 10? Were there 9 spacecraft named “Pioneer” before 10 was launched?

Can’t wait to read what Sophia photographed!

I love gadgets and want to learn more about the gadgets aboard the Mars Express.

“New Horizons to New Worlds” is a wonderful title! What new world has it already discovered?

I am wondering where Ulysses is now. This question captured my interest right away. I’d like to know where Ulysses has been and where it’s going. Although all the instruments on board are very important, they are also difficult to understand, so the picture will be helpful. I would be interested in knowing a little more about just one of the scientific instruments or experiments that made a discovery. I often run into this problem in my own research. Some of the scientific information is so technical and difficult that I must do a lot of research to understand what is going on, and even then, I might not “get it.” So, I would not attempt to write about something that I don’t “get.” I also have to make sure that I explain a difficult idea or concept in a way my readers can understand. If it’s just to advanced, I choose to leave it out of my book and focus on ideas that my readers can understand. Sometimes it’s a “fine line” between challenging my readers and going completely over their heads and losing them. That’s why 5A is so important to my work! You can tell me if something was not clear enough in my writing and I can be more aware of that in my future writing!

I think Zond 1 is a cool name for a space probe! The image of it as a piece of space junk orbiting the sun “forever” is amazing!

Aqua sounds amazing and I am very curious about the Sounder!

Keep writing and I look forward to your second visit to my office on Friday.

April 18, 2013

Hello Class!
How is your research and writing going? I enjoyed reading Reese's and Peyton's first sentences! I am looking forward to reading all of your work! Are you enjoying this process of research? I am posting a couple of videos here that give you some information about Mars and the rovers. When you watch the videos you will notice they contain a lot of scientific information that is explained in words and with animation. Even though watching the videos is fun, it is also a way to do research. It is easy to find videos online, but much more difficult to know if a video contains accurate information. That is why it is very important to know where to look for information online, and why I included many links to websites in the back of Cars on Mars. Checking the resource pages in the back of a book is a great way to find links that can help with your research. Since you are researching space probes, www.nasa.gov is the best place to go online. The challenge is knowing how to sift through a lot of information. A fun way to start is to watch some of the videos made for kids! Check these out:

Do you think I should write about about Curiosity? What would be a good title?

April 13, 2013

During our visit one of you asked "what you you add to your book now if you could?" I said that I would write about Spirit's final communication with Earth and how that rover is now silent and no longer in contact with us. Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas sent this letter to his team shortly after the final command was sent to Spirit, which operated on the surface of Mars for more than six years. This letter would be used in my research if I could add more to my book. It is called a primary source because it was written by a scientist who was part of the team that conducted research.

Dear Team,
Last night, just after midnight, the last recovery command was sent to Spirit. It would be an understatement to say that this was a significant moment. Since the last communication from Spirit on March 22, 2010 (Sol 2210), as she entered her fourth Martian winter, nothing has been heard from her. There is a continued silence from the Gusev site on Mars.
We must remember that we are at this point because we did what we said we would do, to wear the rovers out exploring. For Spirit, we have done that, and then some.
Spirit was designed as a 3-month mission with a kilometer of traverse capability. The rover lasted over 6 years and drove over 7.7 kilometers [4.8 miles] and returned over 124,000 images. Importantly, it is not how long the rover lasted, but how much exploration and discovery Spirit has done.
This is a rover that faced continuous challenges and had to fight for every discovery. Nothing came easy for Spirit. When she landed, she had the Sol 18 flash memory anomaly that threatened her survival. Scientifically, Mars threw a curveball. What was to be a site for lakebed sediments at Gusev, turned out to be a plain of volcanic material as far as the rover eye could see. So Spirit dashed across the plains in an attempt to reach the distant Columbia Hills, believed to be more ancient than the plains.
Exceeding her prime mission duration and odometry, Spirit scrambled up the Columbia Hills, performing Martian mountaineering, something she was never designed to do. There Spirit found her first evidence of water-altered rocks, and later, carbonates.
The environment for Spirit was always harsher than for Opportunity. The winters are deeper and darker. And Gusev is much dustier than Meridiani. Spirit had an ever-increasing accumulation of dust on her arrays. Each winter became harder than the last.
It was after her second Earth year on Mars when Spirit descended down the other side of the Columbia Hills that she experienced the first major failure of the mission, her right-front wheel failed. Spirit had to re-learn to drive with just five wheels, driving mostly backwards dragging her failed wheel. It is out of this failure that Spirit made one of the most significant discoveries of the mission. Out of lemons, Spirit made lemonade.
Each winter was hard for Spirit. But with ever-accumulating dust and the failed wheel that limited the maximum achievable slope, Spirit had no options for surviving the looming fourth winter. So we made a hard push toward some high-value science to the south. But the first path there, up onto Home Plate, was not passable. So we went for Plan B, around to the northeast of Home Plate. That too was not passable and the clock was ticking. We were left with our last choice, the longest and most risky, to head around Home Plate to the west.
It was along this path that Spirit, with her degraded 5-wheel driving, broke through an unseen hazard and became embedded in unconsolidated fine material that trapped the rover. Even this unfortunate event turned into another exciting scientific discovery. We conducted a very ambitious extrication effort, but the extrication on Mars ran out of time with the fourth winter and was further complicated by another wheel failure.
With no favorable tilt and more dust on the arrays, Spirit likely ran out of energy and succumbed to the cold temperatures during the fourth winter. There was a plausible expectation that the rover might survive the cold and wake up in the spring, but a lack of response from the rover after more than 1,200 recovery commands were sent to rouse her indicates that Spirit will sleep forever.
But let’s remember the adventure we have had. Spirit has climbed mountains, survived rover-killing dust storms, rode out three cold, dark winters and made some of the most spectacular discoveries on Mars. She has told us that Mars was once like Earth. There was water and hot springs, the conditions that could have supported life. She has given us a foundation to further explore the Red Planet and to understand ourselves and our place in the universe.
But in addition to all the scientific discoveries Spirit has given us in her long, productive rover life, she has also given us a great intangible. Mars is no longer a strange, distant and unknown place. Mars is now our neighborhood. And we all go to work on Mars every day. Thank you, Spirit. Well done, little rover.

And to all of you, well done, too.

I would also add some of the amazing new photos sent by Opportunity which is still driving after all these years! Photographs taken by the rovers are also primary source material because they are scientific images produced during the research process. Click on the images to get to the NASA webpages that provide detailed scientific information about the photographs.

Late Afternoon Shadows at Endeavour Crater on Mars

opportunity july 19 at 20 miles.jpg
Drive Direction Image by Opportunity After Surpassing 20 Miles

April 11, 2013

Here are some photos from my research trip to Honeybee Robotics, the company that built the Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) for the rovers.

Look through the window to see the posters and photos of the rovers!

An engineer controls the RAT from his computer.

A scientist inside the clean room.

April 10, 2013
Hello Class!

Thank you for visiting me in my office today! It was a "blast" talking with you. I am very excited about your space probe project and have a few suggestions to help you with your research. But first, I wish I could remember all your names, so next time we meet could you each have an index card with your first name printed in BIG letters? When you ask a question or speak then I will know who you are. Now, to the student who is writing about the Voyagers. I suggested that you research the Golden Record. Here is a link to get you started:


I think each of you should try to find one cool thing about your space probe that makes it unique or different from all the other probes. The Golden Record makes the Voyagers unique. Is there a special camera or scientific instrument aboard your probe? How is the probe designed to do what it is intended to do? Did it land on a planet or moon, and if so, what kind of landing gear did it use? How does it move through space? What is the purpose of its mission? When you get together as a class you can share your information and discuss how each probe is similar to others and how they are different. This will be important when you write your class book. You want each paragraph to contain something interesting that is not repeated anywhere else in the book.

Stay tuned...I will post some pictures and videos on Thursday.

Alexandra Siy w jeep.jpg
Let's go on a road trip on Mars!