PHOTOS: Science Students in Upper School and Middle School Collaborate on Exoplanet Mission Design Activity

In a cross-divisional project that was part creative and part scientific, students in the Upper School’s astronomy class visited grade 6 earth science students before the Christmas break to design a mission to a far-away exoplanet.
It was a chance for the two classes—Middle School earth science, taught by Ashley Baffa; and astronomy, taught by Stephanie Capen—to come together for a fun interaction using meaningful elements of their studies.
The Upper School students partnered with a Middle School student to brainstorm an exoplanet in a far-off solar system, noting details ranging from atmosphere to terrain. The partners then compiled scientific questions that a mission to their exoplanet would answer, and then put together details such as mission purpose, necessary instrumentation, timeline and planetary protection precautions, that would make a mission to their exoplanet possible and worthwhile.
For the Upper School astronomy students, it was a natural extension of their unit on space exploration, with a particular focus on the intersection between technology, science, humanity and the search for life beyond Earth. The unit was anchored by the book The Sirens of Mars, about the history of Mars exploration.
“Through the reading of the text, students discovered the persistence, openness to fail, ingenuity, and imagination required of the many scientists and engineers that were a part of the numerous missions to Mars over the last six decades,” Dr. Capen said.
It was also the final assignment for the Middle School students’ study of astronomy, an important unit in the grade 6 earth science class as students gain an understanding of Earth’s place in the universe.
The science collaboration was the latest in a school year full of fun and meaningful cross-divisional activities at St. Margaret’s. The professional community often seeks out opportunities for students in different divisions to come together for joyful academic activities, a unique benefit of St. Margaret’s Early Childhood School-grade 12 campus.
An independent preschool through grade 12 college-preparatory day school in Orange County, California
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San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
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