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Young Readers' Series: The Space Race – Nonfiction

Open to: Grades 4–6
Eligibility: CTY-level or Advanced CTY-level verbal score required
Prerequisites: 
While students are not required to be verbal qualifiers, they must be proficient readers and writers of English to gain value from the course. An optional, free 20-question readiness assessment is available.
Formats: Session BasedSee calendar for session dates and application deadlines.
Course Length: 10 weeks (Early Fall, Late Fall, Winter, Spring) or 12 weeks (Early Summer, Mid-Summer)
Grading: This course is typically ungraded.
Course Code: YRSR

Course Description

While there was widespread publicity concerning the recent 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, the story behind the other Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions seems mostly overlooked. However, the original "space race" to the Moon has acquired increasing relevance now that the U.S. has announced the new Artemis mission to establish a permanent lunar presence and China has scheduled its own moon landing for 2030. What factors motivated President John F. Kennedy in 1961 to commit the U.S. to landing on the moon? How likely did success seem at the time his pledge was made? What technical and political obstacles had to be overcome? What contributions were made by women and minorities that enabled space travel for the chosen few white male astronauts selected for the early missions? How many lives were lost, and domestic priorities overlooked, because of the tax dollars allocated for this venture? What important scientific discoveries can be attributed to the space program? What led to NASA’s gamble to move up the Apollo 8 mission so that Americans would be the first humans to see the other side of the moon? After the Apollo 13 crew reported, “Houston, we’ve had a problem,” how did NASA’s engineers provide the solution that brought the three astronauts home safely? And finally, was the race to the Moon a worthwhile expenditure of American tax dollars if Americans haven't bothered to return since 1972?

Students enrolled in this course will learn the rest of the story that often gets overlooked by the focus on the Apollo 11 moon landing. In American Moonshot (Young Readers’ Edition), historian Douglas Brinkley offers the riveting backstory of the 1969 moon landing. In Hidden Figures (Young Readers’ Edition), author Margot Lee Shetterly shares the story of four African American women who helped launch the U.S. into space amid the modern Civil Rights movement. Jeffrey Kluger and Ruby Shamir’s To the Moon: The True Story of the American Apollo 8 Spaceship provides young readers with the compelling account of NASA’s bold and risky decision to recover from the deadly Apollo I spacecraft fire by moving up and changing Apollo 8’s assignment. In Lost in Outer Space: the Incredible Journey of Apollo 13, author Tod Olson details how a crippled spaceship 200,000 miles away from Earth was sent around the moon and then brought back safely.

Videos from YouTube or other web providers may be present in this course. Video recommendations or links provided at end of videos are generated by the video host provider and are not CTY recommendations. 

Learn more about the Young Readers' Series here.

Materials Needed

  • American Moonshot (Young Readers Edition) by Douglas Brinkley (HarperCollins, 2019), ISBN 978-0062660282 (hardcover), 9780062660299 (paperback)
  • Hidden Figures (Young Readers Edition) by Margot Lee Shetterly (HarperCollins, 2016), ISBN 9780062662378
  • To the Moon! by Jeffrey Kluger (Penguin Young Readers Group, 2019), ISBN 1524741035 
  • Lost in Outer Space by Todd Olson (Scholastic, Inc., 2017), ISBN 9780545928151

Detailed Course Information

Course Details

Unit 1:

  • Begin reading American Moonshot: Young Readers’ Edition
  • Watch an introductory video and a video of John F. Kennedy’s speech
  • Vote your opinion in a poll
  • Complete a timed, open-book quiz
  • Post ONE writing assignment of your choice to the Writing Assignment Forum
  • Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Unit 2:

  • Finish reading American Moonshot: Young Readers’ Edition
  • Watch a video on the early days of space rocket failures
  • Vote your opinion in a poll
  • Complete a timed, open-book quiz
  • Post ONE writing assignment of your choice to the Writing Assignment Forum
  • Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Unit 3:

  • Begin reading Hidden Figures: Young Readers’ Edition
  • Watch a video about the Little Rock Nine and a video about the early years of the space program
  • Vote your opinion in a poll
  • Complete a timed, open-book quiz
  • Post ONE writing assignment of your choice to the Writing Assignment Forum
  • Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Unit 4:

  • Finish reading Hidden Figures: Young Readers’ Edition
  • Watch a video about the Greensboro Four
  • Vote your opinion in a poll
  • Complete a timed, open-book quiz
  • Post ONE research-based writing assignment of your choice to the Writing Assignment Forum
  • Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Unit 5:

  • Begin reading To the Moon: The True Story of the American Heroes on the Apollo 8 Spaceship
  • Watch a video about the Apollo 1 disaster and a video about Curiosity 
  • Vote your opinion in a poll
  • Complete a timed, open-book quiz
  • Post ONE writing assignment of your choice to the Writing Assignment Forum
  • Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Unit 6:

  • Continue reading To the Moon: The True Story of the American Heroes on the Apollo 8 Spaceship
  • Watch a video about the Apollo 8 mission
  • Vote your opinion in a poll
  • Complete a timed, open-book quiz
  • Post ONE writing assignment of your choice to the Writing Assignment Forum
  • Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Unit 7:

  • Finish reading To the Moon: The True Story of the American Heroes on the Apollo 8 Spaceship
  • Watch a video about Apollo 11
  • Vote your opinion in a poll
  • Complete a timed, open-book quiz
  • Post ONE writing assignment of your choice to the Writing Assignment Forum
  • Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Unit 8:

  • Begin reading Lost in Outer Space: The Incredible Journey of Apollo 13
  • Watch a video about Apollo 13
  • Vote your opinion in a poll
  • Complete a timed, open-book quiz
  • Post ONE writing assignment of your choice to the Writing Assignment Forum
  • Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Unit 9:

  • Finish reading Lost in Outer Space: The Incredible Journey of Apollo 13
  • Watch a video about the re-entry of the Apollo 13 crew
  • Vote your opinion in a poll
  • Complete a timed, open-book quiz
  • Post ONE writing assignment of your choice to the Writing Assignment Forum
  • Contribute two (or more) thoughtful posts to the Discussion Board

Unit 10:

  • Summary Assignments covering all four books
  • Vote your opinion in the poll
  • Watch a video about NASA’s 50 years of space exploration
  • Post ONE of the summary writing assignments (your choice) to the Writing Assignment forum.

Note: You are provided with a list of “Mind-Expanding Vocabulary Words” from each book that you can use to help better understand the book and increase your knowledge of vocabulary words in general.

Time Required

This course requires approximately 3 hours for each of the 10 lessons. Students should expect to spend approximately 3 hours per week during the course.

Note: Students do not have to meet in the classroom at the same time. A student's written work can be posted in the virtual classroom at the student's convenience as long as deadlines are met.

Technical Requirements

This course requires a properly maintained computer with high-speed internet access and an up-to-date web browser (such as Chrome or Firefox). The student must be able to communicate with the instructor via email. Visit the Technical Requirements and Support page for more details.