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Ready-Set-Tech: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

A fascinating and attention-sustaining curriculum unit, the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy puts students in the pilot's seat in their learning. Whether students are creating knowledge/question webs in Inspiration, or designing a slide show in PowerPoint, they are pro-actively engaged in the growth of their knowledge. A fun Net Scavenger Hunt is a chance for students to use what they know about non-fiction texts and apply it to computer based non-fiction. They simultaneously pick up and utilize helpful tips for navigating the World Wide Web. Zooming through the galaxy of knowledge, students design and create a PowerPoint presentation focusing on two different planets.

This project provides students with a frame of reference for the abstract idea of time through a study of the age of the earth, and and the distances between stars and planets. Students gain an appreciation for their place in the Universe and a respect for the auspicious environment that we Earthlings call home!

Ciro Scardina

Ciro Scardina has been teaching at P.S. 127, The McKinley Park School, in Brooklyn for three years. He is a fourth grade teacher with an undergraduate background in the arts. Ciro is a mentor teacher for his school and loves nothing more than when his students sit in rapt attention as he reads to them.



Science, Technology

Grade Level: 4-8

Materials: Computers with Internet access, attached worksheets, selected books, and access to the Museum of Natural History, NYC.






Students will:

1. Collect information from read alouds and independent/buddy reading.
2. Demonstrate understanding by using Inspiration software to create a knowledge/question web.
3. Apply Internet research skills learned by taking part in a Net Scavenger Hunt.
4. Research and analyze information from the web about the planets.
5. Use research gained to create a PowerPoint presentation.
6. Experience the Rose Center at the AMNH and evaluate various exhibits.


Day One:

: The Universe: Mapping What We Know

Objectives :

  • Students will create a knowledge/question web using Inspiration software.
  • Students will collate facts and information gained through group and independent study.

Materials :

  • Non-fiction picture books
  • Research folders
  • Laptops
  • Inspiration software

The unit began by discussing features of non-fiction text to facilitate fact-finding and information gathering.   Teachers should allow 2-3 weeks of exposure to features of non-fiction.   During this time, students may specialize in a discrete area or join a group for cooperative study.   Some books we used are:

  • Planets Series by Gregory L. Vogt
  • 1000 Facts About Earth by Moira Butterfield
  • Space by Robert Snedden
  • Hubble Space Telescope by Paul Sipierra
  • Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System by Joanna Cole
  • Look into Space by Jon Kirkwood
  • The Story of Astronomy by Carole Stott
  • UFO Diary by Satoshi Kitamura
  • Do Stars Have Points? Q&A About Stars & Planets by Melvin and Gilda Berger
  • Black Holes: A True Story
  • The Universe by Seymour Simon
  • The Universe and Other Poems by various authors (Orbit Double Take)

Procedure :

•  Students listen to The Universe by Seymour Simon as a read-aloud.   This book culminates all the students have been learning into a book that is easy to read and understand.

•  While reading, have students attend to new things learned as well as their prior knowledge of the universe.

•  The students will place students into pairs and assign them a laptop.   Each pair will need their research folders, containing all relevant data they have collected so far.   Books are available for student reference.

•  Student pairs will discuss their findings and decide on what information should be put on their knowledge webs.

•  Focusing on the knowledge web topics, students will create questions they would like to explore further on these topics.  

•  Using Inspiration software, students will create a knowledge/question web that will serve as the basis for further study in the unit.

•  Students gather on the carpet to share their best work and discuss questions for further study.

Assessment :

  • Students will be assessed based on answers to questions during the read-aloud.
  • Students will be assessed based on individual conferences and group observation while engaged in the process of the project.
  • Students will be assessed based on the quality of their knowledge/question webs

Day Two:

: An Internet How-To: The Web is Your Friend

Objectives :

  • Students will apply knowledge on non-fiction conventions to Internet articles.
  • Students will take part in a Net Scavenger Hunt to assist them in navigating them in navigating their research.
  • Students will gain a better understanding of effective Internet search methods.

Materials :

  • Computers with Internet connection
  • Digital Projector
  • Worksheet #1
  • Pens/Pencils


This lesson is completed over two days and thus comprises days two and three.

Procedure :

  1. Teacher will model effective research techniques using the digital projector.   Topics included are links, Google key word searches, and URL addresses.
  2. Teacher will place students into groups of four and assign a laptop.
  3. Student groups will take part in an Internet Scavenger Hunt using Worksheet #1 as a guide and to take notes
  4. Teacher will assign two planets to each group that will serve as basis for PowerPoint presentation to be completed on following day.
  5. Students will share their research and we will examine and discuss the PowerPoint rubric.


•  Students will be assessed based on conferencing during group work.

•  Students will be assessed based on observations of methods used to search and navigate the Internet.

Day Three:

: An Internet How-To, day 2: PowerPoint Presentation


  • Students will continue their research, focusing today on planets assigned during previous lesson.
  • Students will use research gained to create a PowerPoint presentation on their planets.

Materials :

  • Computers with Internet connection and PowerPoint software
  • Notes from Worksheet #1, focus on Website 3
  • Pens/pencils

Websites :

Procedure :

•  Teacher reconvenes groups to review strategies for effective Internet searches.   Questions will focus on links, Google search engine, and URL addresses.

•  Student monitors retrieve their laptop used in part one.

•  Using Website 3 from Worksheet #1, groups will continue their research focusing on their two assigned planets.

•  Using PowerPoint, groups will design and create a slideshow of their assigned planets.   Students should attend to the rubric throughout.

•  Teacher will gather students on the carpet to discuss how the project went and to build excitement through a discussion of the field trip to the Rose Center for Earth and Space.

Assessment :

•  Students will be assessed based on adherence to the rubric for their PowerPoint presentation.

•  Students will be assessed based on individual conferencing and group observation.

•  Students will be assessed based on the final product of their PowerPoint presentation.

Day Four:

Culminating Event Preparation


•  Students will visit the Rose Center website and take virtual tours of some of the exhibits they will see.

•  Students will generate a list of questions to be discovered on the field trip.

Materials :

•  Computers with Internet access

•  Digital Projector

•  Worksheet #4

•  Pens/pencils

Websites :

•  http://hubblesite.org/

•  http://amng.org/rose/universe.html

•  http://amnh.org/rose/hope/

•  http://amnh.org/rose/vtours.html

Procedure :

•  Teacher will show students images from the gallery on Hubble website.   Images such as this will be seen in the space show, Passport to the Universe , part of our field trip.

•  Teacher will engage the class in a more detailed discussion of the Rose Center and the Museum of Natural History.   Talk about how important it is to properly plan and organize prior to a field trip where discovery will take place.  

•  Discuss extension activity (brochure) and how they will be taking notes throughout the trip to assist them in the creation of a brochure to a favorite exhibit.

•  Teacher will assign groups of four and laptops numbers.   Student monitors retrieve laptops.   Put URLs on the board.

•  Groups point their browsers to http://amnh/rose/vtours.html .   Here students will take a virtual tour of two exhibits they will view at the Rose Center.  

•  Focus student attention on generating questions they have about the areas they will be visiting on the field trip.   They will now point their browsers to http://amng.org/rose/universe.htm and write questions on Worksheet #4 about each area of the exhibit.

•  Finally, groups point their browser to http://amnh.org/rose/hope/ and repeat the process with the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth.

•  Regroup and discuss questions that students produced and any ideas groups came up with for their brochure.

Assessment :

  • Students will be assessed based on research abilities observed while conducting their study of the websites.
  • Students will be assessed based on individual and group conferencing taking place during group work.
  • Students will be assessed based on the depth of questions generated during the activity.


Ciro created several handouts for this unit, including field guides for visitors and teachers bringing classes to the Museum of Natural History. They can be downloaded by clicking on the tiltels below.

Field Trip:

Rose Center for Earth and Space
American Museum of Natural History

Culminating Field Trip:

To assist students in their practical research, they will use Worksheets #2 and #3 as guides for learning.   Worksheet #2 will guide them through the Cullman Hall of the Universe and Worksheet #3 will steer their learning in the Gottesman Hall of the Planet Earth.   Together with these notes and the questions answered from day four, students will be able to compile enough information for a top-notch brochure.

Extension Activity: Brochure

After the field trip, using their notes and sketches compiled on the field trip, students will utilize MS Publisher to create a 3-panel brochure.   The project will place the group as a Public Relations company that has just been hired by the Rose Center to design informational brochures for some of its most popular exhibits.   The students will employ their ideas gained throughout the field trip experience into this brochure.   Groups will present their brochures to the class and discuss their exhibit.   Question and answer follows.



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