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  • Writer's pictureThe Mischievous Librarian

Space Mining... Library Style

(Original Post: March 24, 2019)

​I had the pleasure of creating a culminating activity for Division 1 and 3’s Natural Resources Unit just before spring break. I decided to expand upon an idea that was presented at the BCTLA Conference last October 19, 2018 in Richmond, BC… Space Mining!

I wanted to combine the students’ learning surrounding mining and rock formations along with the coding practice we had been learning in library class.


Introducing Mars Base Alpha

​I began with creating videos to introduce the activity and team roles. I am still a novice at creating videos using screencasts and green screens so the videos are very basic. Students formed teams, signed up for roles, and came up with team names. It was very neat to see the students think deeply about which role suited them the best and would benefit their team the most.

Creating the Surface of Mars​

Lady D (my spunky library technician and I used painters tape to create a grid on the library floor.


Do not use cheap dollar store tape. BIG mistake! I ended taping down the original dollar store tape because it wouldn’t sick to the carpet.


Just use FROGTAPE!

Rock specimens were placed in the left hand corners of the grid squares thanks to our incredible Grade 5 teacher, Queen Troll. This allowed room for students to walk without accidentally kicking the specimens. There were a few fun life signs in the squares: Martian rubber duckies, graffiti art, a skull, water, and a plant.

Tip: Healthy Dose of Fear

We used the skull as a reminder that the surface of Mars is a dangerous environment. It was also a reminder to respect the “Evacuation Count Down” (a.k.a. space mining is over & go back to class) or you’ll be left on the surface of the moon indefinitely!

Tip: Lighting

We realized our iPads do not have flashes during the dry run. Oops! To provide enough light to take pictures, we opened the electric shutters a little bit, projected a Youtube video of Mars on the screen, hung Christmas lights, and placed battery-operated tea lights on the grid corners. We are planning to invest in headlamps for next year!

Authorized Access Only Tunnel

The tunnel was definitely an example of the indulgence I am afforded by my principal, Aussie Gal, and Lady D. Using rolling bookshelves, a rolling whiteboard, and 2 huge blue tarps we created a tunnel from the library to the gym. The Technical Engineers and the Astronauts used the tunnel; it was completely unnecessary, but so much fun to use!

Tip: Nails and Butterfly/Binder Clips

I used nails to attach the tarps to the bulletin boards and my amazing administration assistant, Ms. Gate Keeper, suggested using binder clips to hold the tarps together. Brilliant!

NASA Mars Base Alpha Workstation

Our Fine Arts School has large black curtains in the gym that became the perfect backdrops for our NASA Mars Base Alpha Workstation. We were a little short on tables, so two teams worked at single table with a divider in the middle of the table with the teams' names on it. The Mapping Engineers had a clipboard with the blank grid of the library floor, pencils, erasers, pencil crayons, and NASA ID badges. The Master Coders had a clipboard, a stack of paper, erasers, pencils, and NASA ID badges.

A table with rock and mineral books for reference along with a table of astronaut uniforms were set up to the side of the workstations. A NASA sign and a Coding Example poster adorn the walls.

Tip: Recycling

We realized quickly that the students needed to a place to throw out their used code papers to avoid confusions. Have a big paper recycling bin handy!

Space Mining

The Mapping Engineers examined the blank grid and chose one square to be photograph by the astronaut. The Master Coder wrote a code to take the astronaut from the starting square to the square that was to be photographed. The Master Coder gave the iPad and the written code to the Technical Engineer, who transported the iPad and code to the Astronaut. The Astronaut waited in the tunnel with fellow Astronauts.

The Astronaut walked the code, knelt down, and used the iPad camera function to photograph the desired square.

The Astronaut returned the equipment to the Technical Engineer, who delivered the equipment to the NASA workstation.

The Mapping Engineers viewed the image on the iPad, drew the image in the square on the blank grid. Another square was then chosen and another code written. The Technical Engineer erased the previous image before returning the iPad and new code to the astronaut.

Tip: Use 2 iPads

While the astronaut was using one iPad, a second iPad was being prepped for the next mission by the Mapping Engineers and Master Coder. This kept everyone constantly working and reduced waiting time.

It was a success!

As with any first attempt, there were a few bumps in the road. However, the students were super focussed for 2 hours, codes improved throughout the activity, rocks were correctly identified, and everyone work as a team.

As for yours truly, I ended the activity happily exhausted!

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