Never too Early to Dream Big about Space … or Entrepreneurship

Martine Deziel and Yolanda Gálvez––both teachers at St. John Fisher Jr. Elementary in Pointe Claire––are passionate about robotics. They are also big proponents of team teaching. So much so that they have awakened a cooperative, entrepreneurial spirit among their Grade 2 and kindergarten students, that all started with a joint robotics project.

St. John Fisher Jr. students learn about robots in space.

St. John Fisher Jr. students learn about robots in space.

In years of teaching very young students, Yolanda hasn’t yet found a child who doesn’t enjoy building a robot. Happily, robotics is a great way to engage kids in the “simple machines” portion of the Cycle One curriculum. Last year, Martine’s Grade 1 class teamed up with Yolanda’s kindergarten students to build robotic boats and crocodiles using an educational kit produced by LEGO®.

The two teachers linked the children’s robot-building experience to the ultimate Canadian-built robot, the Canadarm. Together they discussed how important the latter was to astronauts like Chris Hadfield aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Last year, both classes followed the astronaut’s tweets and YouTube downloads from space.

The Grade 2 students became robot-building consultants to the kindergarten class.

Brian Ewenson

Brian Ewenson

Martine’s students, who have since moved up with her to Grade 2, enjoyed the experience so much that they asked to repeat it this year—with an entrepreneurial twist. They wanted to become “robot-building consultants” to the current kindergarten class. In addition to coaching the younger children, the Grade 2 students took an active part in planning when and how often the two classes would meet, what activities they would do and what supplies they would need.

In the meantime, Yolanda’s students were learning about life in space. First, she asked them to watch the night sky at the precise time the ISS would be seen overhead. Then, adding some language arts, she had them make home videos describing (in French) how they did simple tasks like brushing their teeth and washing their hands. Back in class, they discussed videos showing how astronauts manage the same basic functions in space.

Spirit of cooperation will grow

Creating “Canadarms” out of paper

Creating “Canadarms” out of paper

To launch their entrepreneurial service, the students thought of inviting a guest speaker to talk to both classes about robots. Some of the younger children wanted to meet an astronaut. “We didn’t know how to arrange for an astronaut to visit,” says Yolanda, “but we did know of Brian Ewenson.” An expert in both NASA and Canadian space programs (and a Montréal native), Brian Ewenson has been a crusader for space education for more than two decades. Last October, he accepted Yolanda’s and Martine’s invitation to visit St. John Fisher.

Both teachers agree that the entrepreneurial project “Never too early to dream big about space” has created a spirit of cooperation among their students that will grow as this year’s kindergarten class become eventual consultants to future kindergarten children. And though hardly older than the children they are serving, “the Grade 2 students are developing their sense of responsibility and engagement in their learning,” says Martine.  “We hope this will stay with them in their future projects.”

Want to learn more?

Martine Deziel and Yolanda Gálvez recently presented this project at the 2014 Space Exploration Educators Conference in Houston, where more than 400 participants from nine countries were in attendance. To learn more about how they organized their project, you can reach Yolanda or Martine at St. John Fisher Jr. at 514-798-0746.


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