Costs and Benefits of Exploring Space

Unit Curriculum and Assessment Plan

S&T - Grade 6: Space
Earth and our Relationship with our Sun and Moon.
2 to 3 weeks

Expectations/Big Ideas:

Technological and scientific advances that enable humans to study space affect our lives.

Assess the impact of space exploration on society and the environment




Description of task:

Students will complete a persuasive writing piece to persuade a review committee to either reduce its budget or increase spending on space exploration.

Download: Cost/Benefits of Space Exploration Persuasive Writing Task Overview

Download: Sample Student Work

Write Say

Assessment Tool:

Rubric - will evaluate understanding, thinking and investigation, communication skills and application skills.

Download: Achievement Chart - Science and Technology, Grades 1-8

Assessment Criteria/ Look Fors:

  • " Understanding of the components costs and benefits of space exploration

  • " Ability to express and organize ideas and information "

  • Inclusion of all required components of effective persuasive writing



Space activity has been driven by political and military considerations, as well as by possible economic benefits, as well as by the desire to explore. Astronomy is motivated by the quest for fundamental knowledge about our universe and our origins; this knowledge may have economic benefits in the future



Space exploration has brought many benefits to society. High-quality radio and television signals are now relayed around the globe by satellite. Biological experiments in space, such as the growing of insulin crystals, are contributing to our ability to fight disease. The technology used for space shuttle fuel pumps is now being used to make better artificial hearts. Geographical data obtained by satellites have improved the quality of maps and made navigation safer. But space exploration is also very expensive, involves risks to the lives of astronauts and others, produces pollution, and creates space junk that may eventually fall back to Earth. Are the benefits worth the costs and risks?


Lesson Goal(s) and/or Focus of Instruction
Description of Student task
Diagnostic or Formative Assessment
Assessment tool
How will you know when each child has reached the goals? Assessment Criteria/Look Fors:
1E Students complete diagnostic questionnaire to determine prior knowledge and misconceptions they bring into the key learning of the benefits and costs of space exploration.

Read diagnostic questionnaires submitted by students. Note major misconceptions as well as areas of strength for both individuals as well as the group. Teachers may wish to approach lesson as a Think, Pair, Share. However, teachers may wish to hold back some responses as the answers may come throughout the learning the upcoming lessons.

Download: Cost/Benefits of Space Exploration Diagnostic


Why explore space? This lesson introduces some benefits of space exploration in a creative way. The students learn of a few technological advances that have made a difference in their lives and are creatively lead to appreciate that human curiosity is also a driving factor in space research.

Lesson - Why Explore Space?


Assign the students a reflection question: Are you curious about space? Why or why not. Check for completion and share thought provoking answers with the class next day.


One significant benefit of space exploration is the NASA spinoff program. To introduce this concept in a lighter fashion have your students visit the NASA kids club website to search for spinoffs! Students are given a clue and then must search a garage to locate the item given from the clue. A fun way to discover a variety of NASA spinoffs.

Link: Search for Spinoffs Game

To follow this activity up, have your students visit this website which highlights many other common items that are NASA spinoffs. A worksheet is provided for the students to complete.

Link: Inventions from Space

Download: NASA Spinoffs Worksheet

Note: NASA publishes a document each year outlining their new spinoffs and describing the positive contributions on society. The documents are not written at a grade six level, but it may be a useful site to explore together with the students or on your own for ideas. Just click the link below.

Link: NASA Spinoff Homepage

Write/ Do
Anecdotal or Checklist/ rubric
Option 1: Check the worksheets for completion and lead a discussion of student responses. Option 2: Collect question #6 for assessment. You could use the communication response format as well as the communication response checklist and rubric to assess and provide feedback.

Download: Communication Response Checklist

Download: Communication Response Rubric


NASA spinoffs have certainly made their mark; however, they are only the tip of the iceberg. The following PowerPoint highlights a variety of ways that we benefit from space exploration and astronomy, from early timekeeping to monitoring our home planet.

Download: Benefits of Space Exploration and Astronomy PowerPoint

Download: Benefits of Space Exploration Student Handout

Simply observe students for engagement. You will be able to assess student understand once they submit their rough drafts of their persuasive writing. It will be at this time that you will be able to provide feedback and ensure understanding of this issue.

Space exploration and astronomy are fascinating! With all the benefits from this research to compliment our nature sense of wonder how can we debate against exploring space? Unfortunately, space exploration is expensive. In this lesson, students learn how much the Canadian government spends each year on space research and gets the opportunity to disperse the federal budget based on their own beliefs. Will it compare to the current budget? Who is competing for federal funds? What other arguments are there against space exploration? Use this Smart Notebook presentation to guide the discussion of these questions and more. The lesson ends with the introduction of the culminating task.

Download: Understanding the Issue Smart Notebook Presentation

Write/ Do
Simply observe students for engagement. You will be able to assess student understand once they submit their rough drafts of their persuasive writing. It will be at this time that you will be able to provide feedback and ensure understanding of this issue.

You may wish to consider an informal debate as a means to get your students talking about the issues and sharing ideas with one another prior to writing their own persuasive writing. The following link outline a unique approach called a triangle debate.

Download: Triangle Debate


Simply observe students for engagement. You will be able to assess student understand once they submit their rough drafts of their persuasive writing. It will be at this time that you will be able to provide feedback and ensure understanding of this issue.


astronaut Astronauts are people who go into space.
astronomy The science that deals with the material universe beyond the earth's atmosphere
engineering The art or science of making practical application of the knowledge of pure sciences
micro-gravity Is the state in which "apparent" gravity is reduced to virtually negligible levels. [For example, when an object is in free fall, it experiences microgravity.]
research Diligent and systematic inquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories, applications
science Systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.
space suit The life-support suit that astronauts wear when they work in space.
spin off Any product that is an adaption, or development of another similar product
technology The branch of knowledge that deals with the creation and use of technical means and their interrelation with life, society, and the environment, drawing upon such subjects as industrial arts, engineering, applied science, and pure science
universe The totality of known or supposed objects and phenomena throughout space;
weightlessness Weightlessness (or free fall) is the state in which an object appears to have no weight (but the object's mass remains the same). During weightlessness, the apparent gravitational pull on an object is negligible (close to zero).


  • There is no gravity in space.
  • Aliens are visiting the earth, and have been doing so in the past.


  • Canadian astronauts have been part of NASA's space program, as a result of their expertise in engineering, robotics, and space medicine.
  • In particular, Canadian industry has developed the Canadarm and Dextre; Canadian astronauts are experts in operating these.