A WebQuest for Middle Schoolers who are interested in Rocketry, History, and Reading
what it's all about. There's this tiny 1950's town called Coalwood. In
Coalwood, coal mining is life. The men work in the black mines of the West
Virginia earth, and the women stay home and pray that they arrive home
safely for dinner. Homer Hickam is a son of a coal miner who desperately
wants to make something of himself and go to college. However, the chance
of that happening is slim to none. Homer is awfully afraid that his only
future is working in the coal mines like his father. Homer's father has
achieved a supervisor's position, and loves the mines more than life. Although
Homer thinks he will be depressed and stuck in the coal mines forever,
the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, goes into orbit in October 1957
and changes Homer Hickam's vision forever. This cool bit of technology
with the space world encourages Homer to attempt to build his own rocket.
He and his three friends, including the nerdy genius of Big Creek high,
go about the painstaking job of rocket building. Sadly enough, every one
in Coalwood belittles the attempts and laughs it off as a childish boy's
dream. Mrs. Riley, however, the local history teacher, believes in the
boys and informs them of the national science fair, which rewards college
scholarships as the prize. With this goal in mind, the four boys begin
the journey, literally to the stars.
Before reviewing the movie, a few points concerning the history of the film should be understood. Few Americans considered the gathering on Friday, October 4th , 1957, at the Soviet Union's Embassy in Washington, DC, to be anything out of the ordinary. However, to a remarkable degree, the Soviet announcement that evening changed the course of the Cold War. October 5th, 1957 Sputnik was launched. The Space Race had begun.
Ideas to help you with history:
1. Have a jigsaw history lesson. You and your friends make groups and assign yourselves an aspect of this time frame to research. One group, for example, could research Sputnik, and the history surrounding the event and the preparation. Another group could research various aspects of the cold war. A remaining group could research the history of NASA. Make visuals and present to the rest of the class.
2. Watch the movie and focus on key points of life in the 1950's such as clothing, music, school, sports, cars, etc.
3. Research the life of Homer Hickam, who graduated college and became an engineer for NASA. You can even contact Homer Hickam HERE!!
4. Who was Warner Von Braun and what did he accomplish? This is very important.
Homer's hero is Warner Von Braun, who inspires
him throughout his rocketry experiments in Coalwood. Focus on a personal
hero of your own and write about them and how your hero has encouraged
you through a difficult time.
Some ideas to help you:
Mrs. Riley, the inspirational history teacher in October Sky, fell ill with Hodgkin's disease. With today's technology, we know more about this disease than most did in the 1950's. Investigate the causes, symptoms, and treatments of Hodgkin's disease.
Coal mining was a way of life for families
in Homer Hickam's tiny town of Coalwood, West Virginia. Discuss with your
friends the actual process of coal mining, uses of coal, and health risks
associated with this profession.
First get into three different groups.
Number off one, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, and so on.
Group One...You cool cats have the History Section
Group Two...You dogs have the English Section
Group Three...You chalupas have the Science Section
Want to know what you're supposed to do?
Sure you do! Here it is...
Day one. Watch the movie, duh.
Day two. All groups need to get together and do the tasks related to each section. By doing this you all will receive a better understanding of that aspect of the movie.
Day three. This is the most productive
day. Here you all will get together and have a discussion about the
movie. Each section ought to have a different angle with which to
evaluate the movie. But before the discussion begins the different
section will provide an overview of what they have learned.
Have fun Dudes and Dudettes!!!
Here's how you will be evaluated. First of all it should be understood that a project like this requires good participation. The reason for that is that you all are situated in groups and everyone is needed for the group to be successful.
So the whole project is worth 100 points. Here is how we break it down.
25 points is for watching the movie. 5 points is deducted each time for anyone who is not watching the movie. For example, sleeping, talking to others, or playing video games is not allowed.
25 points is for participation in the task. You are all participating in a group activity. So staying on task is of utmost importance. Your teacher will make deductions as he/she sees fit.
25 points is for the presentation. Once again, your teacher will evaluate this and make the necessary deductions.
25 points is for the class discussion.
This is the fun part. Just participate and you'll do swell.
Deductions should only be made if the discussions are getting off subject
or for behavior problems.
By now, you peeps should have learned a lot
about the History, English, and Science - all wrapped into one great movie!
By doing this activity, you should have not only learned more about these
particular subjects, but also how to work well with others.
Credits & References
And we would like to acknowledge and thank
the following websites for their most gracious help!