Unfortunately, it seems that every generation witnesses or is impacted by a national tragedy at some point in their childhood (the Kennedy assassination, September 11th, the Sandy Hook shooting, etc.). Many of us watched these tragedies unfold on television sets in classrooms, we remember the candlelight vigils/moments of silence on the morning announcements, and remember the discussions of how to cope with tragedy. The memories of these events are carried with us for the rest of our lives.
The tragedy that impacted my childhood was the Challenger disaster. Most classrooms across America were tuning into the launch due that this mission was different than any other in NASA’s history. In 1985, Christa McAuliffe was selected from more than 11,000 applicants to participate in the NASA Teacher in Space Project and was scheduled to become the first teacher in space. For weeks leading up to the launch we were learning about NASA, outer space, and how McAuliffe was training to be an astronaut. On January 28,1986 my third grade class looked on in horror as the shuttle disintegrated 73 seconds after lift-off. Christa McAuliffe and six other crew members lost their lives that day.
In memory of the Challenger crew and the 25th year anniversary of the launch, my third grade students created paintings of the shuttle. To start the unit, we discussed the history of the event and watched the actual launch. I was amazed at how this project really impacted the students, and bridged the gap between my classroom and home. Many of the student’s parents at Barwell are roughly about my age, and for many of my students this made for engaging conversation at the dinner table. I received several emails from parents explaining their memories of the event as well as how excited they were to see the artwork when it was completed.
All of the projects turned out great. This was also my first time using a projector and document camera for doing step-by-step drawing instruction. This worked really well, and I will definitely be implementing this in many lessons to come.