Out of This World: Students Take an Eco-Friendly Field Trip to Mars

A focus on energy conservation brings the sciences to life in an art class at Redwood Middle School, in Napa, California. More to this story.

A focus on energy conservation brings the sciences to life in an art class at Redwood Middle School, in Napa, California. More to this story.

Release Date: 4/16/08

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Editor's Note: Sharon Campbell retired after 23 years of teaching at Redwood Middle School. She recently presented on project-based learning at TEDx Philadelphia ED and is now working on writing a book about individualizing instruction.

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Narrator: Redwood Middle School in Napa, California looks a lot like every other middle school in the country, except for one extraordinary classroom disguised as a spacecraft.

Teacher: Ladies and gentlemen, I am receiving a call from Earth. Yes, Earth, come in.

Narrator: In her popular art elective, Sharon Campbell lets her class experience everything from physics to physical fitness in an environment that is out-of-this-world.

Sharon: So we have decided that we are going to land close to the south polar cap.

When I did my master's program, I did it in classroom environments, and I meant the physical environments, because I believe a classroom is the largest tool you have to teach. The color of an environment is extremely important, and I chose the colors of blue and purple because it's very relaxing. All of our classrooms are beige. What kid or what adult ever wanted to live in a beige world?

Sharon: Temperatures will range between 70 degrees and negative 230. Yes.

What I've done is I've imbedded science, math and history, as well as geography in my class and made it a hands-on experience.

Sharon: Anyone find proof of manufacturing?

So those kinetic learners that we have, those that are having difficulty in their other classes, they get to actually touch and feel, manipulate, analyze and build in this class.

Sharon: Did you find proof of an herbivore?

This one, because it doesn't have that sharp teeth. They're not that sharp.

They can use the information they got in theory in their other classes and actually put it into a real-life experience in this class.

Boy: I found hieroglyphics, and I found out what it said.

Narrator: Campbell's students learn a dynamic lesson in ecology during every minute of her class, pedaling a bicycle that generates electricity for the classroom.

Sharon: I've always said that if I could just harness the power and the energy in these 12-year-old boys that I could run a city. Well, we built a kid-power bike.

Narrator: With more than 14,000 dollars of her own money, Campbell and her husband connected a wind turbine to a set of batteries to create a mini-plant that generates power and passion.

Sharon: And we found that 15 minutes of cycling stores enough energy to run the classroom for an hour. I wanted to somehow be able to have the kids experience what energy is. They pedal that bicycle. They understand now that motion can be changed into electricity, and when they understand that they have the power to make energy, then it's real easy to say, "You have the power to save energy. You have the power to change the environment." This is all about giving power to the students.

People want to get on the bike. There's a list.

There's usually a line of 10 people that want to get on the bike. Right when you get in, everyone runs to the bike.

Yeah, because it's just riding a bike, but--

It's really cool to be conserving energy and saving energy for your class.

Sharon: Get ready. Put down your shields. Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to red light.

Narrator: Still harboring dreams of becoming the world's most senior astronaut, Campbell delights in taking her students on mock missions using high-tech tools...

Sharon: Oh, my goodness. It's a spaceship.

Narrator: ...and low-tech gimmicks to keep her students engaged in the experience.

Sharon: You know, our 21st-century students are very different than the students I had 20 years ago. Our kids have been taught to learn by looking at a television screen. That's where their attention goes. And I'll tell you, without technology, I couldn't reach the students.

There is some oxygen on Mars. There is an iron core, and the entire surface is rust-covered.

Sharon: If I can create something that makes them curious, I've got 'em. I've got 'em.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are having an asteroid storm.

Narrator: While hiding from asteroids, students discover and describe the artifacts they find under their desks.

Sharon: I would like each of you to estimate the temperature inside your cave.

Narrator: For the teacher, it's a carefully crafted interdisciplinary lesson. For students, it's learning that's natural and fun.

Sharon: Make sure that your measurements are accurate.

The students understand that what you learn in your math class has applications in your science class, and what you learn in your science class definitely has applications in your art class, your language class, your mathematics class, and I have the time to make those kinds of tie-ins. So I've been given a gift by the school district to be able to do this.

Sharon: Satellite One, Satellite One. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a window of opportunity. All clear, all clear. Everyone come back. Watch your eyes. Okay.

Narrator: For more information on what works in public education, go to Edutopia.org.


Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis
  • Karena O’Riordan

Associate Producers:

  • Amy Erin Borovoy
  • Loren Micalizio


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew:

  • Rick Greenwell


  • Michael Pritchard


  • Ed Bogas

© 2008 | The George Lucas Educational Foundation | All Rights Reserved

Comments (10)

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Was this helpful?

This is love in action

...and with school district

Was this helpful?

...and with school district that would allow them to teach and design a room like this.

Redwood Middle School

Was this helpful?

I have been in the classroom for awhile, but when I see a video like this I realize I have a way to go. What a great imagination, and teaching strategies to engage her students.

real life experience

Was this helpful?

very creative and interesting class, plus a dedicate teacher, all these are what the student want to have. the teacher has created a curious, real life experience of learning environment; a model that can catch the student's attention, a science class with the other subject's application. one word:dedicate.

James Allwood (not verified)

cool video!

Was this helpful?

cool video!

Lisa (not verified)

WOW! What a different a

Was this helpful?

WOW! What a different a great teacher could bring to her/his students.

brittany (not verified)

omg! i was just in this

Was this helpful?

omg! i was just in this class for 5th period haha this was takin last year i see i remember maddie :D lol wow i didnt know that my desk was yellow before?? :)

CROD (not verified)

Unbelievable! What a great

Was this helpful?

Unbelievable! What a great idea. I hope everyone @ LAUSD, and the LAUSD School Board
and the Mayor of Los Angeles see this!

Science Rocks (not verified)

An absolutely incredible science experience!

Was this helpful?

Absolutely incredible! What a fantastic and dedicated teacher! It is amazing what a difference a teacher can make that is willing to work hard at their job. So many teachers take the easy (and lazy) way out and simply read aloud out of a textbook, assign the questions at the end, and give a test. Or worse worksheets and notes, lecture and notes. B-O-R-I-N-G. 21st century kids need to be visually and intellectually stimulated and engaged --and that requires hard work on the teachers part. This teacher truly understands her mission -- and that is to enable children to live their lives with meaning and purpose. Kudos to you Sharon Campbell!! You rock!!

Belinda Chinea (not verified)

Field Trip to Mars/comment

Was this helpful?

Wow! If I had only had this lovely human being (as I'm sure is her hubby!)as my
teacher, I would've had a different outlook on teachers and the mandatory learning process.
My nutty professor was NOT, alas, a professor, but a tired, worn-out and 'therefore obsolete, useless,mediocre
run of the mill, boring kid-hating teacher. I knew the type well. Alas!
I would have lived a much better life had
a curriculum such as this one, been infused into our daily agenda..along with
Dick and Jane and the others. Time must be adaptive to its relativity in space and time. What worked in 1950 would NOT
necesarily be conducive to the bright, internet-ready children who seem as able
to maneuver in this 2008 world as their children will (blessedly!)be in 2050!
I hope the board of ed. looks closely to
this and other videos just like this one.
Thank you,"Teach"! When is Venus' turn?:)

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