Gifted Program Online and Out of This World
Posted on 04/03/2022
Gifted Program Mission to Mars Project

A group of East Hartford 5th graders are planning a trip to mars. It’s one of several places they’re travelling virtually through the East Hartford Public Schools Gifted Program.

 The program includes around 30 fourth and fifth grade students from all eight elementary schools who were identified as Gifted through test scores and teacher recommendations. Its virtual model, which pre-dates the pandemic, allows these students from different schools to meet together and to go on virtual field trips and experiences.

 The trip to mars was the students' idea, part of the program’s emphasis on project-based learning guided by student interests.

 “Our rigorous programming gives our highly capable students agency (choice and voice) in the learning process by engaging them in project-based opportunities that capitalize on their interests and showcase their aptitudes. Assignments that give students agency, with appropriate guidance and support from teachers, motivate students to do their best and grow as learners,” said Ben Upson, Elementary Instructional and Technology Integration Coach at O'Brien who leads the program.

 The Mission to Mars assignment began with students researching and learning about Mars. Then, students were faced with "challenges" to the mission that required them to apply this new knowledge to address realistic problems that could occur on such a mission.

 Next, students designed and built their own spacecrafts to land on Mars while limited to certain materials and a budget (See examples below). Finally, the project will conclude with students designing their own sensors to help their spacecraft navigate the treacherous atmosphere of Mars to land safely.

 All the while, these students are applying their science, mathematics, reading and writing knowledge as they continue to prove not even the sky's the limit for their capabilities.

 Upson said, “We hope the perseverance needed to grapple with the challenging components of the project have helped our students showcase their intellect while pushing themselves outside of what comes easily to them. We also hope that beneficial byproducts such as time-management skills, attention to detail, and utilization of peer and adult feedback have helped our students to push themselves past the boundaries of their already impressive capabilities.”

Mission to Mars Project Example

Mission to Mars Project Example

Mission to Mars Project Example