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Out of This World #5: Moon In, 20 July 1969 (A Time Travel Lesson)

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, travel back in time to 20 July 1969, the day that a human being first landed and walked on the moon.  This is the only time travel lesson (so far) on PYPLibrarian, and I am thrilled to make it available.  This is an easy-to-pull-off lesson, so sit back, relax, and enjoy one day from the swinging ’60s.  At the time, people who watched the lunar landing held “Moon In” parties.  Enjoy this “Moon In” with your students.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



To experience 20 July 1969 through dramatic readings and video clips.  (AASL 1.1.6, “Read, view, and listen for information presented in any format . . . in order to make inferences and gather meaning.”)

Suggested Time:

45-50 minutes

Success Criteria:

Students will participate in recreating 20 July 1969.  Students will also listen for the spirit of the times and for the feeling and tenor of one of the world’s greatest days of scientific achievement.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Remind students that in the last lesson they used NASA’s Picture Dictionary to create a space-themed acrostic.  Today, for the final lesson in the unit, they get to do something even more amazing with NASA!  The class will travel back in time and experience one of the most exciting moments in space travel history!

Write the date July 20, 1969 on the board or on a flipchart paper at the front of the class.

Ask the students how many people they think it would take to plan, design, and carry out a lunar mission.  Ask them to write their numbers on a sticky note then come to the front of the class and put the sticky notes in numerical order, left to right, like a number line.   The student with the biggest number in his/her guess gets the position of honor today!  According to today’s author, it took (write these numbers on the board slowly) 4 0 0, 0 0 0 people to do the job!!

Explain to the students that today we will travel back in time to meet and hear from some of the people who worked to make the Apollo 11 moon landing a success.

2. Main:

Show the students the cover of Thimmesh’s book, Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon. Ask why in the world it took so many people to make the moon landing a reality.  Who were the 400,000 people?

Record the student answers at the front of the class.  With a bit of prompting and based on things they have learned in the unit, they should come up with people such as:

  • Computer Scientists
  • Seamstresses
  • Chemists
  • Flight Controllers
  • Aerospace Engineers
  • Software Engineers
  • Communications Experts
  • Technicians
  • Mathematicians
  • Pilots
  • Nutritionists
  • Scuba Divers
  • Doctors
  • Cooks
  • Janitors
  • Fitness Experts/Trainers
  • Sailors
  • Parachute Makers

and many more!  Remind them that the effort took many years, approximately eight, and hundreds of organizations and companies were involved.  That’s why the number is so big!

Explain that right now they’ll get to hear from some of the people who worked on the Apollo 11 project.  Pass out the quotes taken from Team Moon (handout, attached).  Give the students a minute to read through the quotes.  Ask students to prepare their quote for the class in pairs.  One person will announce the name and position of the person who will speak, then the second student will speak and play the part of the person who contributed to the Apollo 11 mission.

Allow time for about half of the parts to be read.  Let the kids comment on and ask questions about this information.

Show the Lunar Landing video clip:  Apollo 11 Eagle Has Landed

Allow time for the remaining parts to be read.  Let the kids comment on and ask questions about this information.

Show Walter Cronkite’s video clip:  Relive!  Apollo 11 Landing with Walter Cronkite

Tell the students that not everything went smoothly the day that the Eagle Lunar Module landed.  Then, summarize and read highlights from pages 18-23: Challenge 1: Alarms.  If the kids are interested, summarize and read highlights from Challenge 2: Almost Empty.  These are heart-stopping accounts of all that went wrong in the final twelve minutes of the lunar module flight, before it landed on the moon.

3. Conclusion:

Ask the students to respond to these sentence starters:

  1. Getting to the moon takes a lot of . . . .
  2. A lot of people are needed to plan a journey to the moon because . . . .
  3. You might be surprised to learn that when planning a moon landing, you have to think about . . . .
  4. If you are traveling in space and something goes wrong . . . .
  5. Space travel is difficult to plan because . . . .

Thank the students for their work in this unit.  If there is still time left and if the students are interested, let them watch any of the Apollo 11 videos found on NASA’s web site here:  NASA’s Apollo 11 Videos.

  1. Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh
  2. Flipchart paper with markers, chalkboard, or Smart Board
  3. One copy of the student handout, cut into small strips so that pairs of students can prepare to speak/perform the quotes
  4. Computer and all equipment necessary to play video clips for the class.
  5. Team Moon Free Teaching Resources (optional), available for download from Follett’s Titlewave website.
  6. Eagle Has Landed video: Apollo 11 Eagle Has Landed
  7. Apollo 11 landing coverage with Walter Cronkite: Relive! Apollo 11 Landing with Walter Cronkite
  8. Any of NASA’s Apollo 11 videos: NASA’s Apollo 11 Videos

This lesson is meant to be a small celebration of learning.  It’s a chance for the kids to listen to and comment on an historical space exploration moment.  Hopefully it will also get them back on NASA’s website so that they realize just how much more there is to explore.

Because so many advancements have been made in space exploration and space sciences over the years, children today often do not realize how important that first moon trip really was.  This lesson tries to make that moment real and tries to give them some perspective on the complexity of the achievement and overwhelming joy at the mission’s success.  (Key Concepts:  Perspective and Change.)

I don’t always have the luxury of planning an end of unit lesson that is so much fun, but this one is.  While the teachers are busy giving summative assessments, let the children enjoy this journey back in time.  Their curiosity will carry the lesson, as always, and they should develop more questions for further inquiry.

Catherine Thimmesh’s text is full of information, and you won’t have time to share most of it.  However, if you can, take an hour or so before the lesson and become familiar with her work.  You will need to be comfortable with the general order of events and some of the details of the moon landing and Apollo 11 mission to lead the children through this lesson.  If you need to, find a guest speaker or expert who is!  Kids usually respond very well to guests and this would be a perfect time to invite an expert to class.

Recommended books for this lesson:
  1. Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh
  2. Any other books from your collection about the Apollo 11 Mission, Astronauts, or Manned Space Missions. If you have biographies of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, or Michael Collins, be sure to bring and display those. Include historical fiction written around this event as well.
Key Terms:

Lunar Exploration, Moon, Apollo 11 (Spacecraft), Space, NASA


Student Handout, Team Moon, Speaking Parts