IN SPACE STAYING FIT Exploring Exercise Through Project-Based Learning - The Citadel Today

IN SPACE STAYING FIT Exploring Exercise Through Project-Based Learning - The Citadel Today
     Exploring Exercise Through Project-Based Learning

IN SPACE STAYING FIT Exploring Exercise Through Project-Based Learning - The Citadel Today
   n space, astronauts have to exercise    miles above the Earth’s surface.” This
   every day to prevent muscle and         comment led to a discussion on how
   bone loss (NASA 2015). However,         basic activities on Earth are very dif-
exercising in space is much different      ficult to carry out in space. As a class,
from what we’re used to on Earth. As-      we list activities (e.g., walking, eating)
                                                                                        CONTENT AREA
tronauts need to use exercise equip-       that would be difficult to do on the ISS
ment designed for space because            and activities (e.g., flying) that would     Earth science
objects on Earth are much lighter in       be easier on the ISS. We then ask stu-
space due to microgravity, the state in    dents to brainstorm what made some
which all objects fall at the same rate    activities easier and others harder.         GRADE LEVEL
and appear to float (NASA 2009).              When several students begin to            6–8
   This article describes the design and   hone in on the topic of gravity, we use
implementation of an interdisciplinary     an example of a baseball to help stu-
unit in which students research the ef-    dents understand the concept of mi-          BIG IDEA/UNIT
fects of exercise on heart rate, create    crogravity. We tell our students, “If we
                                                                                        Space science and the
hypotheses about the differences of        were to drop a baseball inside the In-
                                                                                        human body
exercise in space, and design activity     ternational Space Station, it would ap-
trackers for astronauts on the Interna-    pear to float due to a lack of difference
                                                                                        ESSENTIAL PRE-EXISTING
tional Space Station (ISS). During the     in speed and gravity. The baseball and
unit, students learn about science and     everything aboard the International
engineering practices, forces and mo-      Space Station and the International          None
tion, space science, data analysis, and    Space Station itself are actually being
statistics. The unit culminated with       pulled toward the Earth equally so the
students generating a list of questions    overall effect is that everything inside     TIME REQUIRED
to ask astronaut Randy Bresnick about      the ISS ‘floats.’”                           One to two hours
his time on the ISS and his research          To connect to the central focus and
on the effects of space on exercise and    goals of the learning segment, we ask
health during a LiveLink discussion.       students to brainstorm about how             COST
The unit aligns with the Next Genera-      microgravity affects the human body
                                                                                        Minimal (
| FIGURE 1: Data table
     Position                                              Student’s name                 Student’s name    Mean, median, mode
     Lying flat heart rate (beats/min)
     Sitting heart rate (beats/min)
     Standing heart rate (beats/min)
     Heart rate after 1 minute of exercise (beats/min)

     exercise across different environments. During all                       had plenty of space. After briefing students on the
     discussions within this lesson, we formatively assess                    warning signs of overexertion and going through
     students’ contributions to the class discussion using                    warm-up stretches, we assign students to a sta-
     a checklist to monitor their understanding of new                        tion. In the station where students lie flat, students
     content and to make adjustments to activities and                        take turns lying down across a row of chairs that
     materials. To prepare students for the lab, they cre-                    have been set up by the teacher and monitored by
     ate a research question pertaining to heart rate, body                   an adult volunteer. At each station, students moni-
     position, and exercise. Sample research questions in-                    tor heart rate for the one minute in the position
     clude: “Is my heart rate faster when I am walking                        or after doing the exercise. Safety note: The teacher
     or running?” and “Is my heart rate faster when I do                      should monitor students for overexertion and al-
     jumping jacks or when I am running?” Questions                           low any students with pre-existing health issues
     must be approved by the instructor to ensure they                        (e.g., broken limbs, heart condition, and physical
     are feasible to investigate before students move to                      disabilities) to serve as the “official researchers,”
     the lab.                                                                 helping to collect data. Teachers should also con-
                                                                              sult with the school nurse to make sure all stu-
                                                                              dents can participate.
     Next, students engage in an interactive lab where
     they measure and research heart rates of different                       | FIGURE 2: Astronaut Randy Bresnick
     positions: lying, sitting, standing, and after brief ex-                   training on an Advanced Resistive Exercise
     ercise of their choice. In our classroom, students use                     Device (ARED), which helps maintain
     heart rate monitors (e.g., exercise tracker, sensor, or                    muscle strength
     Fitbit-type watches that record heart rate). If these
     tools are not available, teachers could show students
     how to use a stopwatch to find and record a pulse at
     their wrist or throat by counting the beats per min-
     ute or in a 10-second period. Then teachers would
     tell students to multiply that number by six to find
     the heart rate. We recommend pairing students, with
     one student performing the movements and the
     other student collecting the data before they switch
        Before beginning each activity, students take a
     resting pulse by lying in a flat position and per-
                                                                SAM MCADAMS

     forming each movement in the order listed in the
     data table in Figure 1. Stations were set up around
     the room for different positions to ensure students


              | FIGURE 3: Astronaut Randy Bresnick on                     collaborative research project. We tell students that
                                                                          the heart is made up of the unique cardiac muscle,
                a Treadmill with Vibration Isolation and                  which tirelessly contracts approximately 100,000
                Stabilization System (TVIS), which helps                  times a day, and then we ask why they think the
                maintain muscle and bone strength                         heart needs to contract. Student answers varied, but
                                                                          many said that the cells in our body require oxygen
                                                                          and nutrients and that we need an efficient delivery
                                                                          system to supply the cells with their requirements
                                                                          and remove waste products.
                                                                             We provide students with specific examples fo-
                                                                          cusing on the role of the heart in the human body,
                                                                          saying: “Every time it contracts, the heart ejects
                                                                          blood at a high force around the body. Cells that
                                                                          work more need a greater supply of blood. For ex-
                                                                          ample, during exercise, muscle cells are working
                                                                          harder and need more oxygen and nutrients. The
                                                                          heart is also beating faster, generating a greater
                                                                          force and pumping blood around the body at a fast-
                                                                          er pace.”
                                                                             We then ask the class: “When an astronaut in
                                                                          space moves, does their heart have to work harder
                                                                          or contract faster to make sure all of the muscle cells
                                                                          are adequately getting their supply?”
                                                                             In our discussion, students said that an astronaut

                                                                          does not need extra nutrients or oxygen because
                                                                          “he is floating from one place to another.” When
                                                                          one student asked whether that is a good thing, we
                                                                          explained that the heart needs its own workout to
                 Once students complete all stations, they calculate      remain strong and healthy. Otherwise the muscle
              the difference in beats per minute among the various        can begin to waste away in a process known as
              positions and movements by determining mean, medi-          muscle atrophy.
              an, and mode. Then, students record their calculations         Next, we ask students to imagine an astronaut
              in the data table and make comparisons across posi-         floating and directing themselves in any direction
              tions, movements, and students. For example, students       without using skeletal muscles. We then describe a
              can subtract beats per minute standing from beats per       process known as detraining, during which the mus-
              minute sitting to get the difference in heart rate across   cles, just like the heart, begin to waste away. This
              positions. Students discuss differences within their        helps students understand that astronauts must use
              groups. Groups that have additional time can also           their muscles in space to prevent muscle atrophy.
              graph the data. This lab generally takes 30 to 45 min-      To give students an idea of exercising in space, we
              utes, depending on the technology and exercises used.       suggest showing them the “Running in Space” vid-
                                                                          eo (see Resources), in which NASA astronaut Karen
                                                                          Nyberg shows viewers how to run on a treadmill in
              Explain                                                     a weightless environment.
              We begin the Explain phase with a discussion about             After the discussion, group students into teams
              the human body in space to prepare students for a           of three or four and have students select the heart,

                                                                                                            January 2019            65
| FIGURE 4: Activity tracker wristband design choices
           Your challenge: Design an activity tracker wristband for an astronaut on the International Space Station that
           costs $100 or less. The base band starts at $60 and can be customized with the following options

                            Band size                              Screen size                          Band color
         .75” x .5”    1” x .5”          1.5” x .75”   Small         Medium       Large     Black       White         Gray
         $5            $0                $10           $5            $0           $10       $0          $10           $0
                      Button placement                 Screen brightness                    Purple      Pink          Green
         Left          Below             Right         Dull          Bright                 $10         $10           $10
         $5            $5                $10           $0            $10                                 Other: $15
         Downloadable mobile app               Shape of face                                 Button style
         No            Yes               Round         Rectangle              Flush                         Raised
         $0            $15               $10           $5                      $10
                                  Features                             Band material                   Band weight
         Heart rate Steps                Sleep         Extended      Rubber       Plastic   .5 oz.      .75 oz.       1 oz.
         $2         $2                   $2            battery       $5           $10       $20         $15           $10

     bones, or muscles as their research topic. We sug-
     gest using heterogeneous grouping, as this allows
     students to better understand their classmates’                       In the Elaborate phase, students select an astronaut
     strengths. To ensure that all research topics are rep-                currently serving on the ISS, design an activity track-
     resented, the teacher may also decide to assign stu-                  er based on that astronaut’s profile, and create a vid-
     dents to a topic. Using the NASA website and other                    eo advertisement to sell their activity tracker to their
     online resources, including news articles and videos,                 selected astronaut. These activities engage students
     the teams create a three- to five-minute presentation                 in authentic design-based thinking and problem
     explaining how astronauts exercise the heart, bones,                  solving and can be linked to technology, mathemat-
     or muscles on the ISS by answering the following                      ics, and English/language arts standards.
                                                                           Designing an activity tracker
     •        What types of exercise target the selected
                                                                           To connect to previous learning and to engage stu-
              research topic (heart, bones, or muscles)?
                                                                           dents in debate about design choices and constraints,
     •        What specific exercise or piece of exercise                  we tell students to think about what they had previ-
              equipment would the astronaut use on the                     ously learned about heart rate and life in space and
              space station? (We provide students with                     to keep costs below $100. Student pairs then discuss
              a photos of space exercise equipment—see                     a variety of design features (e.g., width, button style,
              Figures 2 and 3.)                                            band material); debate the advantages and disadvan-
                                                                           tages of each design feature for their astronaut; and
     •        How long do astronauts need to exercise?
                                                                           construct their activity tracker using cardstock, foam
        Students’ grades were based on the Oral Presenta-                  paper, laminating paper, glue, and scissors according
     tion Rubric (see Online Supplemental Materials).                      to the specifications and materials list in Figure 4. As


a safety precaution, we demonstrate how to use the           Students try at least two to three different tools
scissors to cut different types of materials, including   for 10 to 15 minutes while following the Digital Citi-
the laminating paper, foam paper, and band plastic.       zenship guidelines that are part of their school’s cur-
Students’ conversations focused on topics such as         riculum (see Resources). Students use their personal
visual design (e.g., color and the merits of a slimmer    devices such as cell phones and tablets to experiment
versus larger band), functionality (e.g., using larger    with the video editing tools, to understand the af-
battery or a brighter screen), and audience (e.g., dis-   fordances and constraints of the tools, and to select a
cussing their selected astronaut’s characteristics and    tool to use to create their advertisement. For example,
interests), all of which illustrate design thinking.      many students select Spark Video, a free, easy-to-use
    While this activity generally takes about an hour,    editing tool. However, Spark Video does have lim-
it could be shortened or extended based on time con-      ited editing options, so students with previous vid-
straints and student learning needs. For instance, al-    eo-editing experience may choose Magisto, which is
lotting more time for students to research commer-        more difficult to use but offers more options in terms
cially available activity trackers and health bands       of music and image editing. For schools with one-
could lead to rich and authentic discussions about        to-one device or device checkout programs, students
design features and limitations. Figure 4 could also      can use the tools listed above or pre-installed video
be adapted to meet the needs of different students        software, such as iMovie.
and classrooms. Students who are unable to cut and           Students then choose a storyboard template (see
glue could draw or digitally construct the health         Resources), plan their compositions, and present
bands. Materials, such as foam paper and buttons,         their storyboard to the teacher for an informal check
could be chosen or modified to support blind or vi-       before recording their advertisements. During the
sually impaired students’ with the activity. To sup-      storyboard process, some students draw pictures of
port students with learning disabilities, teachers can    what each frame of their advertisement might look
use collaborative grouping or a selected set of design    like, while others describe the scenes using words
features. Finally, to adapt this activity for more ad-    or a combination of words, images, and colors. After
vanced students or for high school classrooms, stu-       recording and editing their advertisements, students
dents could research other design features and add        present their video advertisements to the class and
their own design elements to the bands.                   reflect on the process of planning and creating their
                                                          work. Students may spend about 45 minutes on de-
Creating a multimodal video advertisement                 signing and recording advertisements and about 15
                                                          minutes for presentations and reflections. Adver-
In the second part of the health band activity, stu-
                                                          tisements were assessed according to the rubric in
dents create a 30- to 60-second video advertisement
                                                          Figure 5, which could be adapted or used as part of
to persuade their selected astronaut to purchase their
                                                          an interdisciplinary unit involving persuasive writ-
activity tracker. As a class, we discuss how modes
                                                          ing or multimodal composition. This activity works
such as language, movement, music, sound, and im-
                                                          particularly well for ELL students, who benefit from
ages work together to convey meaning to an audi-
                                                          multi-sensory instruction that incorporates technol-
ence. Then we share a variety of advertisements and
                                                          ogy and visual representations (Hur and Suh 2012).
ask students to discuss and analyze rhetorical de-
vices and persuasive techniques. We suggest show-
ing the “Art of Rhetoric” video from readwritethink.
org, as well as selected examples (see Resources). Af-
ter discussing the assessment criteria (Figure 5), we     In the culminating assessment for this lesson, stu-
share a variety of storyboard options (see Resources)     dents have a conversation with an astronaut on the
and discuss different video editing tools (e.g., Ani-     ISS. To prepare for the conversation, students create
moto, Magisto, and Spark Video).                          questions that draw upon their experiences with the

                                                                                            January 2019            67
| FIGURE 5: Advertisement rubric
                                  4                      3                       2                        1             Total
      Purpose and       Clearly relates       Relates to the        Some relation to the        Does not relate
      content           to the learning       learning objective or learning objective or       to the learning
                        objective or          illustrates a concept concept                     objective or does
                        illustrates a concept                                                   not illustrate a
      Storyboard        Completed detailed     Completed               Completed            Storyboard not
      planning          storyboard with all    storyboard with all     storyboard with      completed
                        of the following:      of the following:       at least two of the
                        statement of           statement of            following: statement
                        purpose, script, and   purpose, script, and    of purpose, script,
                        storyboard of the      storyboard of the       and storyboard of
                        video clips            video clips             the video clips
      Titles,          Titles or transitions   Titles or transitions   Attempts to use          No titles or
      transitions, and enhance the video       do not detract from     titles or transitions,   transitions exist
      effects                                  the video               but they detract
                                                                       from the video
      Video/            Video and photos      Videos and photos        Videos and photos        No videos or photos
      photos            relate to the subject mostly relate to the     are limited and          relate to the subject
                                              subject                  some are off topic
      Audio             Movie includes voice Movie includes voice      Movie has only           Movie has no sound
                        and music. Audio      and music. Audio         music. Audio levels
                        levels are just right levels are too low or    are too low or too
                                              too loud.                loud.
      Use of            Skilled operation      Satisfactory            Minimal operation        Incorrect operation
      technology        of computer and        operation of            of computer and          of computer and
                        program enhances       computer and            program during           program detracts
                        presentation           program during          presentation             from presentation
      Presentation      Shared final           Shared final product    Shared final product No final product to
                        product with           with audience,          with audience        share
                        audience, answered     answered some           and attempted to
                        all questions in       questions in            answer questions
                        knowledgeable way,     knowledgeable way,      and explain steps to
                        and explained the      and explained the       production
                        steps to production    steps to production

     class discussion, lab, and health band activities. As a          The LiveLink discussion allows students to syn-
     class, students debate the merits of various questions        thesize their learning and engage in an authentic
     and select five questions to ask astronaut Randy              conversation with an astronaut. For about 20 min-
     Bresnik during the LiveLink conversation.                     utes, students ask the questions that had been voted


Connecting to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States 2013)
• The chart below makes one set of connections between the instruction outlined in this article and the NGSS. Other valid
   connections are likely; however, space restrictions prevent us from listing all possibilities.
• The materials, lessons, and activities outlined in the article are just one step toward reaching the performance expectations
   listed below.

MS-LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
MS-ETS1 Engineering Design

Performance Expectations
MS-LS1-3. Use argument supported by evidence for how the body is a system of interacting subsystems composed of groups of
MS-ETS1-1. Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution,
taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit
possible solutions.

 DIMENSIONS                                                           CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS

 Science and Engineering Practices

 Planning and Carrying Out Investigations                             Students design and carry out an investigation of exercise.

 Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information                 Students research different exercises and exercise devices
                                                                      on the ISS and present their findings.

 Disciplinary Core Ideas

 LS1.A: Structure and Function                                        Students compare how the heart, bones, and muscles
                                                                      function on Earth compared to outer space.
 • In multicellular organisms, the body is a system of multiple
    interacting subsystems. These subsystems are groups of
    cells that work together to form tissues and organs that
    are specialized for particular body functions.

 ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems                 Students research an astronaut on the ISS and design an
                                                                      activity tracker that incorporates visual design, functionality,
 • The more precisely a design task’s criteria and constraints        and audience.
    can be defined, the more likely it is that the designed
    solution will be successful. Specification of constraints
    includes consideration of scientific principles and other
    relevant knowledge that are likely to limit possible solutions.

 Crosscutting Concepts

 Structure and Function                                               Students research how specific body structures (heart,
                                                                      bones, muscles) function.

 Cause and Effect                                                     Students research how specific body structures (heart,
                                                                      bones, muscles) are affected by microgravity and the role of
                                                                      exercise in minimizing those effects.

                                                                                                                January 2019             69

      on and chosen by the whole group. Students’ ques-                 things, engineer things. You guys can be the astro-
      tions directly connected to their experiences within              nauts to take us to Mars and beyond.”         •
      this learning segment. For example, one student
      asked, “How has it been, adjusting to the micrograv-              REFERENCES
      ity in space?” In his response, the astronaut com-                Hur, J.W., and S. Suh. 2012. Making learning active with
      pared microgravity to going over a bump in a car                     interactive whiteboards, podcasts, and digital storytelling
      and being on a roller coaster, and discussed a daily,                in ELL classrooms. Computers in the Schools 29 (4):
      two-and-a-half-hour exercise regimen designed to                     320–38.
                                                                        National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). 2009.
      prevent muscle atrophy. Other questions asked dur-
                                                                           What is microgravity?
      ing the chat included: “What are the psychiatric ef-                 shuttlestation/station/microgex.html
      fects of being in space? What do you think the next               National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
      big accomplishment or discovery will be in space?                    2015. Exercising in space.
      What specific jobs do you and your crew perform                      foreducators/stem-on-station/ditl_exercising
      in space? What classes, majors, or activities did you             NGSS Lead States. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards:
                                                                           For states, by states. Washington, DC: National Academies
      take in college that helped you become an astronaut?
      What is the mission of your team on the ISS?”
         While LiveLink chats are only available to schools             RESOURCES
      by invitation, this activity can be adapted in many               Digital Citizenship Curriculum—
      ways: Students could participate in an online NASA                   education/digital-citizenship
      Scientist Chat, engage in a fishbowl discussion, or               ISS video clip—
      brainstorm questions and research answers. For ex-                NASA scientist chat—
      ample, the online NASA Scientist Chat (see Resourc-
                                                                        “Running in Space”—
      es) allows students to pose questions to a variety of                ikouWcXhd0
      NASA scientists, such as astrobiologists, physicists,
      space scientists, and geologists, during a live online            Advertising examples
      discussion or via Twitter.                                        Amazon example ad—
                                                                        “Art of Rhetoric”—
      Conclusion                                                           video-61.html
                                                                        iPod example ad—
      This learning segment engages students in a vari-                 Pepsi example ad—
      ety of activities, such as discussion, debate, experi-               watch?v=0gHYd67OumQ
      mentation, design, and multimodal presentation, all
      of which support active learning about important                  Storyboard samples
      STEM topics. Students also have the opportunity                   Blank Storyboard Template—
      to think critically about potential STEM careers and
                                                                        Comic Creator—
      career pathways. As astronaut Randy Bresnik stated                   interactives/comic
      during the LiveLink, “We need people beyond us                    Printing Press—
      to do this job and take us beyond the space station.                 interactives/Printing_Press
      That’s you guys in school, you guys studying and
      looking at all these neat things in STEM, that are al-            ONLINE SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS
      lowing you to figure out how to make things, create               Oral Presentation Rubric—

      Jennifer Albert ( is director of the STEM Center of Excellence, Sarah Imam is an assistant professor in
      the Swain Family School of Mathematics and Science, and Robin Jocius is an assistant professor in the Zucker Family School of
      Education, all at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina.

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