If you’re exploring the new Next Generation Science Standards and wondering how to get started, I’d start by reading this book aloud to your students. The standards have added “engineering and technology” to the landscape of science instruction and the authors have shifted from “methods” to “practice” in their descriptions of what scientists and engineers do – in an effort to help students understand how knowledge develops. The Mighty Mars Rovers, which has won numerous awards – reveals the cross section of engineering and science and readers can’t help but notice that diligent everyday practice is what helps the team members develop knowledge.
I was amazed to find out what we can do to learn about Mars, millions of miles away, through these robotic creatures. Powered by solar panels, these rovers drove for miles and miles, down into craters, over craggy rocks, sampling the rocks and soil along the way and taking stunning photos. The team that directed the rovers had to practice an amazing amount of patience – sometimes only moving the rovers a few inches a day as they checked out the terrain and made decisions about what the rovers could handle. Rusch’s writing, layout and design make the content accessible to our intermediate and middle grade readers.
This book would read aloud well – or you could book talk it and leave it in the classroom library to be grabbed up. If you did read aloud – sections or the whole text – there are excerpts that you could use during a close reading lesson – excerpts that reveal the intensity and effectiveness of the team’s practice. Perseverance and tenacity are good words to describe their work as well. Page 55 could be a good excerpt to read closely – the rover Opportunity is stuck. The team engages in inquiry – asking questions, creating a replica of the terrain to try out different moves with another rover. This all takes days and days. This short excerpt reveals the intensity of their team work and how knowledge is developed as a result. It could serve as a way to think about the rest of the book.