Skill Building Activities

This page contains materials for groups preparing to fly a Challenger mission.

If you have not yet booked a mission and are looking to do so, please visit this page.

Six Key Skills

The following skills are very important to the success of a Challenger mission! We have provided several examples of activities you could do in your classroom to practice and build up these skills, but also welcome you to explore other options or activities that are the best fit for your group!

The following skills are listed in the order we consider to be most important in preparing for your mission.

1) Teamwork

Teamwork is the key to your group’s mission success. Below are some activities that you can do with your students before the mission to prepare them for the rigors of working in teams.

Thermal Insulator Activity – Your students are NASA scientists working in a very cold environment and they must stand on a thermal insulator to survive. The thermal insulator has been installed upside down and now your students must work together to flip the thermal insulator over without stepping in the cold!

Blind Count-Off – Your students must count to a certain number as a team but they must be blindfolded and only one person can talk at a time.

Birthday Line Up – Your students must organize themselves by birthday… without talking. (the lesson is about half way down the website and there are many other lessons that may be helpful as well)

Ball and String – With or without communication, the team must coordinate  to successfully lift the outer ring and the ball from atop the taller tube to set it on the floor next to the tube.

2) Communication

Great communication is the key to great teamwork.  The below activities will build on the teamwork lessons and improve your students individual communication skills.

Lego Communication – Your students will learn how to follow instructions given by their teammate to build with Legos.

Mission Survival – Your students will learn how to prioritize their activities and learn what kinds of messages are effective.

3) Following Written Instructions

Practice in following step-by-step instructions prior to the mission will be a great help to your students.  Below are some fun space themed activities that use step-by-step instructions.

Step by Step Directions – Your students will follow a list of step by step instructions to complete a task that could not be completed if they skip a step.

Moon Cookies – Make cookies that look like the moon… without baking! Contains Peanuts (this lesson is a simple baking/cooking recipe so you could give any recipe as written instructions and that would work as well)

Make a Star Finder – Your students will follow written instructions to make a famous kids paper game into a star finder.

4) Vocabulary & Pronunciation

This skill is especially important for your students on the Communications team, as they will be reading (and pronouncing!) a variety of jargon over the intercom system. The vocabulary lists are mission specific so please find the list for the mission scenario you will be participating in. Included with the list is a word search using some of the vocabulary words.

Comet Vocabulary List & Word Search

Mars Vocabulary List & Word Search

5) Filling Out Data Logs

Be sure to share with your students the following sample of Task Cards and Data Logs so that they are familiar with our instructions and what we want them to fill out. Make sure to explain what a table is and what the columns and rows are.

Sample Task Cards and Data Logs

6) Keyboarding

With modern technology and kids being used to using touch screen we have found that kids do not know basic keyboarding skills. Throughout the mission your students will need to type. We recommend that you do some keyboarding lessons to help them learn how to type and also to identify those that really need help.

Fun To Type – this website provides many games that are played by typing on the keyboard (internet access required for each student).

Rapid Typing – Free typing tutor software that can be downloaded and installed on multiple computers. This will need to be downloaded but after installation will not require internet connection.

Additional Skills:

Reading Scales: This interactive would be great to practice with your students to make sure they know how to read different scales. If you do not have a computer to work with your students the following is a lesson using lab equipment and pictures: Reading Equipment Scales.

XY Coordinates: This lesson is a great explanation of how to read a Cartesian Coordinate system. After you have explained the Cartesian Coordinate system you can let your students play this game to practice. (Please explain that when looking at a map we call this longitude and latitude and if you’re looking at the sky its called right ascension and declination) The Navigation team would benefit from this lesson.

Measuring Volume by Displacement: This video explains a lesson that can be taught about calculating volume by displacement. The Remote team would benefit from this lesson.

Lab Activities: These lab activities are put together by the staff here at the Challenger Learning Center in Sacramento. Each activity touches on some of the skills mentioned above and every activity has a corresponding data log for the students to fill out.

Additional Questions

Feel free to contact us with any additional questions or concerns!