Yesterday myself and two colleagues took the entire junior class, plus one freshman, to Hutchinson’s Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center to take part in a new program the educational museum is offering.
It is called Cosmo Crisis, and, in it, students are placed into pre-assigned groups of nine, which represent the National Security Council. Each student is assigned a job, such as the following: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Director of National Intelligence, National Security Advisor, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Press Secretary, and President’s Science Advisor.
Prior to our arrival, each teacher taught specific content the Cosmosphere had culled together to prepare the students for the day. I specifically taught about the Manhattan Project and Crisis Management under the realms of English and Journalism respectively. Other teachers taught content in the areas of mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, history, and social studies.
Even the lessons were great, but the true fun and excitement happened when we arrived. The students were quickly ushered into a room that was designated as the White House Situation Room. A Cosmosphere staffer entered, playing the role of the Vice President of the United States, and told the group, “You have been selected to brief the President about the current crisis. It has been determined that it could become a huge threat to Americans.”
During this briefing, the students were told there was a possible nuclear threat against the United States, and the target was Hutchinson. Then the students were doused in an onslaught of information. They were told of meeting times and other pertinent information. Nearly all of the meetings were happening at the same time, so each member of each group would have to pull his or her own weight. Then, at the end and once all the necessary information had been gathered and the data crunched, the students had to create a video briefing that would be shown to the President using an iPad and a green screen.
Instantly the tension in the room skyrocketed as the pressure was on.
Once this initial brief was complete, the students were told they had an hour and a half to turn in their briefing, and they were off to the races.
It was an awesome day! The students were all engaged and diving in headfirst. They all completed the task on time, and I was impressed by their final products (we will receive copies of each video at a later time, and I will post them then). Several students said they were stressed and tired at the end of it all, and a couple said they thought it was a cool experience.
From my perspective, it was more than cool. It was amazing! It was the epitome of cross-curricular education and project-based learning. It took all types of background knowledge from a variety of disciplines to be able to successfully navigate this exercise. When I was first approached about taking part in this with my English III class, I was in. I could see the benefits. After witnessing it firsthand, I am more convinced than ever about the validity of such a project.
Here is how the Cosmosphere described the exercise in the curriculum we were provided:
Cosmo Crisis looks at many important aspects of STEM, taking actual historical events and creating an understanding of how critical these subjects are in determining the course of human events and even the very fate of humanity itself. While the examples are taken from wartime situations that are debated to this day, they are meant to illustrate how STEM factors into important decisions, good and bad, and how they can influence the course of human history.
So, at the end of the day, the students learned they were dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis. Isn’t that awesome?
We need more of this type of education!
And it fit perfectly into what I was doing with my English class. The timing was exceptional, and it will fit in even better next year when I fully implement the blending of English III and the Career and Technical Education class Project Management and Resources Scheduling (I will be writing more on this soon).
I could go on and on about how great this was, but the proof is in the students themselves. They performed phenomenally. I was very proud of them, and I truly hope they all enjoyed it as much as I did. It was a spectacular experience.
As the journalism teacher, I also had a camera with me during the event, and I took pictures and recorded some video. Unedited versions of those are below for your enjoyment.
I can’t wait until next year to do this again!