Women in flight: Using music to study American women pioneers in flight
As North Carolina's 97-98 Christa McAuliffe Teaching Fellow, I designed this plan to musically enhance the 5th grade social studies of American heroes, focusing on women pioneers in flight. It is intended to utilize singing and rhythmic activities to compare and contrast the lives of Amelia Earhart and Christa McAuliffe. Amelia Earhart was the first woman to successfully complete a solo trans-Atlantic flight and tragically disappeared while attempting to fly around the world in 1937. Christa McAuliffe was selected for NASA's Teacher-in-Space program and tragically died in the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster. I traditionally use this plan close to the January 28 anniversary of the shuttle disaster.
A lesson plan for grade 5 Music Education and Social Studies
- use appropriate vocal practices to sing songs related to women pioneers in flight.
- use movement and play small percussion instruments to experience beat vs. no-beat (as related to the sensations of gravity and weightlessness in space.)
- experience ABABA form through their movement & instrument playing and strophic/song form through their singing.
- understand the relationship between music and history — how music can express facts as well as the emotions surrounding historical events.
- compare and contrast the lives of Amelia Earhart and Christa McAuliffe through the group use of a double bubble thinking map (see attachment).
Time required for lesson
- recording and text from the Silver Burdett music series:
- Moon Music, 2nd grade instrumental, p.10, CD #1-18
- Lady of the Air, 5th grade song, p.38, CD# 2-7
- Mission Control,, 2nd grade song, p.156, CD# 5-15
- Child of the Universe, 5th grade song, p.34. CD #2-1,2
- Students will each need a 5th grade Silver Burdett music book and one photocopy of Mission Control from the 2nd grade music text. (I have hard copies of the 2nd grade texts to back-up each photocopied sheet.)
- A small percussion instrument (drum, tambourine, triangle, maracas, rhythm sticks) should be placed under each child’s chair.
- A world map for tracing Earhart’s flight paths.
- A visual representation of icons depicting beat and no-beat.
- Visual aids such as photographs or posters related to Earhart, McAuliffe, or space exploration are also helpful.
Students should be taught:
- appropriate vocal practices.
- appropriate skills and understandings of playing small percussion instruments on the steady beat.
- appropriate ways to express the steady beat through movement (i.e. clapping, walking, etc.)
- appropriate ways to express the lack of a steady beat through instruments (i.e. sustained sound of triangle, rubbing rhythm sticks together, rubbing fingertips on drum head) and through movement (i.e. slow, light, floating, airy, beat-less movements.)
- After reviewing steady beat vs. no beat, the children will spread out in the movement space of the room. The teacher will convey to the students that the instrumental selection portrays the contrast between heavy, gravity-filled footsteps and light, gravity-free movements. Then play Moon Music, to which the children will respond with heavy, beated footsteps during the A sections and with free, unbeated movements during the B sections of this ABABA selection.
- Following this movement warm-up, the students will then use the small percussion instruments placed under their chairs to express beat and no-beat during the second playing of Moon Music. Students may then return instruments to places under chairs. This should continue to focus the lesson on the feelings of gravity and weightlessness expressed through the instrumental selection.
- The teacher will then explain that we will be commemorating the anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger disaster (January 28, 1986) by studying the lives of two American women pioneers in the field of aviation and space flight through story and song. Posted on the board or on pieces of poster board are bulleted summaries of the two women’s lives.
- Using the world map and biographical visual, summarize her life and trace Amelia Earhart’s two most significant flights, ending with her disappearance in the Pacific Islands. Include the speculations about what may have happened to her (captured by the Japanese and held as a spy; living on a deserted island, etc.) Discuss what the students think might have occurred. Usually they suggest phenomena like alien abduction or the Bermuda triangle (which I point out is in the Atlantic Ocean!) Whatever her fate, we summarize that she was indeed an American hero as we lead into the singing of Lady of the Air, My Amelia.
- Proceed into the brief biographical highlights of Christa McAuliffe’s life, quoting from book or web site sources as desired. Be sure to include “I touch the future, I teach.” Then, sing Mission Control to focus on Christa’s childhood dream to “reach for the stars.”
- Conclude this biographical summary with the final minutes of the shuttle Challenger’s flight, exploding 73 seconds into the flight, 10 miles above the earth. Emphasize that Christa was another courageous woman pioneer who followed her dream, as we lead into singing Child of the Universe.
- Draw a double-bubble thinking map on the board. Have the students compare and contrast the lives of McAuliffe and Earhart by suggesting items of similarity and difference to complete the bubbles. A second double-bubble map may be utilized in a subsequent lesson to compare and contrast the three songs used in today’s lesson.
- Close this lesson by noting Linda Finch’s 1997 flight retracing Earhart’s flight path, and Barbara Morgan’s planned space shuttle flight as a Teacher-in-Space…more examples of women continuing as American heroes in flight to inspire future generations.
A rubric will be used during the singing and discussion portions of this lesson to evaluate the levels of class participation and performance.
A double bubble map will also be utilized to evaluate the students’ comprehension during the compare & contrast segments of the lesson.
I displayed assorted books related to the subject matter from my personal collection and that of our media center. I used some to read specific bookmarked quotes. You may choose to search your own media center for comparable books.
Photographs and NASA flight patches of the Challenger crew and of Christa McAuliffe were on display in my room, as well as an autographed copy of “A Journal for Christa.” These are available from the Challenger Center on-line gift shop.
- A Picture Book of Amelia Earhart by David A. Adler & Jeff Fisher
- Amelia Earhart by Richard Tames
- Amelia Earhart: Adventure in the Sky by Francene Sabin & Karen Milone
- A Journal for Christa by Grace Corrigan (Christa’s mother)
- Christa McAuliffe: Reaching for the Stars by Patricia Stone Martin & Karen Park
- Women Astronauts: Aboard the Shuttle by Mary Virginia Fox
Depending on your teaching situation and your own sense of lesson pacing, this lesson may take one 45-minute class with some review & follow-up in the following lesson or two 30-minute classes. Although much of this lesson involves direct teaching and presentation of facts concerning the two women interspersed with the musical activities, the students seemed captivated by both biographies. They were especially fascinated with the mystery surrounding Amelia’s disappearance and empathetic to the great sense of national loss after the shuttle disaster. This was a perfect highlight of our character education trait of the month — courage!
NOTE: I have suggested specific songs and instrumental selections found in the Silver Burdett music series. However, similar topical songs in other music series or listening selections such as Holst’s “The Planets” could be substituted, yet maintain the integrity of the lesson.
North Carolina curriculum alignment
Music Education (2001)
- Goal 1: The learner will sing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
- Objective 1.09: Sing music representing diverse styles, genres, and cultures.
- Goal 2: The learner will play on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
- Objective 2.01: Play with pitch and rhythmic accuracy.
- Goal 9: The learner will understand music in relation to history and culture.
- Objective 9.01: Identify the style of aural musical examples from various historical periods and cultures.
Social Studies (2003)
- Goal 4: The learner will trace key developments in United States history and describe their impact on the land and people of the nation and its neighboring countries.
- Objective 4.01: Define the role of an historian and explain the importance of studying history.
- North Carolina Essential Standards
- Music Education (2010)
- 5.CR.1 Understand global, interdisciplinary, and 21st century connections with music. 5.CR.1.1 Understand how music has affected, and is reflected in, the culture, traditions, and history of the United States. 5.CR.1.2 Understand the relationships between...
- Social Studies (2010)
- 5.H.2 Understand the role of prominent figures in shaping the United States. 5.H.2.1 Summarize the contributions of the “Founding Fathers” to the development of our country. 5.H.2.2 Explain how key historical figures have exemplified values and principles...
- Music Education (2010)