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Fifth Graders Debate Merits of Space Exploration

Fifth graders have been studying astronomy from an innovative perspective.
In the "Planetary Debates," each student chooses an object in space to research to answer the question: "Why should NASA fund a trip to this planet or body in space?". A short list of research projects this year includes: Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Uranus, Pluto, Proxima B, Kepler 452 b, Planet 9, Gleise 581g and many more.

Students prepare arguments for what makes their celestial selection the best fit for this funding, then they debate their position against other students. During each round, they go through an introduction, two rebuttals and a conclusion. Then their peers vote on who argued more effectively and which body in space deserves the funding. With each debate, they are reinforcing the information they've learned about their planetary body, while also learning about their opponent's planet.

Over several class periods, students work through a single-elimination bracket until just two challengers are left in each homeroom. This sets up the Final Four. This year's final round included Tristyn Opstal's Uranus vs. Camiryn Opstal's Planet 9 and Zaid Morsli's Europa vs. Sebastian Espinel's Kepler 452b. Uranus and Kepler 452b emerged the victors in the 2017 Planetary Debates. The real winners, though, were the fifth graders who had so much fun learning about planets without ever taking a note from a lecture!
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