When I learned I would be teaching a unit on space in my fifth grade language arts classroom, I was ecstatic. In college, I spent a summer in Hilo, HI studying astronomy when I fell in love with the night sky. This past year, as a mom, I shared my passion for astronomy with my eldest daughter, Samantha. My past articles showed Samantha learning about a couple of telescopes, which I reviewed on my blog Theresa’s Reviews, and the articles explained how she studied the Star Chart app while she homeschooled this past year. Now, as I shared the product with my students as well as my daughter, I evaluated it for its educational value as well as for how it engaged kids.
Review of the Product
First, I used the product in my home. My daughter was so excited about the product that I felt bad later when I took it to school. When I was at home, I tried the mat out in my living room. I was frustrated when I couldn’t get the mat to read the weight accurately when it was on the carpet. After analyzing the situation, I realized that the mat functioned right when I put it on the hardwood floor. I encourage users to always use the product on a hard surface to use the weight function with accuracy.
I tried the weight function out with myself, my preschooler, my baby, and my husband. We enjoyed seeing how our weight would change on the different planets, and we learned plenty of facts. I turned on the quiz function to quiz myself. I thought that the quiz function was a very effective way to encourage the user to actively learn the information. Because the quiz questions were difficult, my whole family participating in helping me answer the questions. Using the product as a group activity was beneficial because it incorporated social interaction as well as movement.
Bringing the product to school where I worked as a fifth grade language arts teacher, I introduced it as an incentive or a game for students to play when they had done their work. When students had finished writing some space poetry, I let volunteers take turns working with the mat. I explained the weight function before kids used the product to prevent students from having any bad feelings about sharing their weight. I noticed that the mat became a group activity. The student using the mat welcomed tips from the class about which planet to walk to during the quiz function.
As the student used the product, she became more accurate the longer she played. I was so proud to see the student grow in her understanding of space because of an activity I introduced in the classroom. Other students showed enthusiasm about studying space, which made me so proud too. I felt that students were very engaged with the product. While the quiz function encouraged a healthy, competitive spirit that made all students want to participate, the weight function shared new information with the students that they hadn’t previously known.
Something I loved about the product was that it came with a booklet full of worksheets to use in a classroom. Using the mat inspired me as I realized how much I wanted to go into science and math content. Usually in the past, as a professional writer, I felt that language arts was my strongest content area. I learned that I had a major passion for teaching about space from all content areas, which encouraged me to have more interest in applying to science and math positions as well as self-contained classroom positions, in my future teaching career. The product helped me learn a lot about what truly interests me and helped remind me of how much I hope to return to Hawaii to study the night sky again someday. In the future, I plan to continue using the product in my classroom as well as in my home.
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I received a free product to inform my writing.