From Moon to Mars, Reaching for the Stars!

By Renée Harris, Lee-Anne Prinsloo and Abigail Mallows

“Tell me and I forget; Teach me and I may remember; Involve me and I learn.”

- Benjamin Franklin


Over the course of my teaching career, having navigated through 5 very different curriculums, this quote has stood the test of time for both me and my learners. It was often very challenging to make learning fun, meaningful and engaging for my learners when the curriculum was often very prescriptive. This required some very creative thinking and planning. I have definitely found a WINNER in Inquiry-Based Learning! A wonderful and exciting way to ensure that curriculum concepts are covered BUT the learning becomes so much more relevant and meaningful for the learners. Our learners are exposed to much more than exists between the pages of the curriculum AND THEY HAVE LOADS OF FUN WHILE LEARNING! There is absolutely NO WAY that I can revert back to the traditional way of teaching and learning. Our classrooms are a hive of fun and excitement each day, not only for our learners but also for us as teachers!

The vision

The vision

The Grade 3 learners were anonymously called to an area of the playground via the school intercom. They were met by a crash site where a spaceship had landed in their playground. An alien had lost his memory when the spaceship crashed and he asked the learners to help him find his home planet.

The vision

Curriculum standards

The vision
Curriculum standards

This learning facilitated the development of the following skills identified in CAPS:


  • Life Skills - Beginning Knowledge
  • Topic - Space
    • Earth from space - what it looks like (land, sea, clouds)
    • Stars and planets - what they are
    •  Names of the planets
    •  Space travel  

Learning journey

The vision
Duration: 4 weeks

Teacher Feature

The vision

Student activities

The vision


There was a ''manic'' announcement on the intercom to all 3 classes (in a voice that the girls could not identify) for the learners to proceed immediately to a particular area on the playground. The girls had no idea what this was all about and rushed outside.....the teachers, of course, all played along! 


A section of the playground was cordoned off with danger tape and there, on their playground, was the most amazing spaceship (the spaceship was created by my colleague's husband......let's get the whole family involved shall we 😂). There were also various clues around this spaceship e.g. bits of ice, etc. You can just imagine the shrieks and screams coming from the learners at this point!


The learners returned to class and were shown a slideshow presentation from the alien who had landed in their playground. He explained to them (in Martian language - with a very clever translation tool ) that his spaceship had crashed and he had no idea where he had come from and needed their help to find his way back home.

I think we very successfully managed to get the learners engaged and intrigued by this fantastic provocation!


We then created a ''See… think… wonder…" wall in each of our classrooms. Each learner had a photo of their face inside an astronaut suit which we prepared ahead of the time and the girls populated rocket ships attached to themselves for the wonder wall.



Each day the girls would participate in aspects of the learning journey, learning about the various planets of the solar system, in order to assist the alien in finding his home planet (remember that various clues were also around the spaceship crash site).


Integrated learning activities included

  • Diary entries (learners recorded any information along their learning journey each day)
  • Shared Writing as a whole class activity (A Space Adventure: introduction, body, conclusion)
  • Comprehensions (using Google Forms with videos embedded, Edpuzzle, etc.) 
  • Our Solar System - Google Form
  • Our Solar System - Edpuzzle
  • The Solar System - Choiceboard
  • Language Structure (tenses, adjectives to describe the alien, verbs, etc.)
  • 3D objects (linked to planets)
  • Time (elapsed time)
  • Bar graphs and tallies
  • Afrikaans (Die seisoene - how the seasons occur - relating to the planets and the sun)
  • Afrikaans (voornaamwoorde en besitlike voornaamwoorde)

Student reflections

The vision
Student reflections
Student reflections

Teacher reflections

The vision
Teacher reflections
Teacher reflections

Technology used

The vision


Google Forms

Google Slides

Storyline Online




Book Creator

Technology used

What's next?

The vision

Our Grade 3 team has grown in leaps and bounds. This is our third IBL unit we have designed. We plan one unit each term using the Lifeskills themes as the backbone for our planning. Integration across the curriculum has been key in this process. We aim to have IBL/PBL fully implemented within the next 6 months.

Closing thoughts

The vision

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” - Henry Ford 


In my pursuit of 21st-century teaching and learning, I am driven by an unwavering passion. I believe in the power of IBL to equip our learners with the skills, knowledge and resilience necessary to thrive in an ever-evolving world. My hope extends beyond my own classroom.… I aspire to inspire fellow teachers to embrace the changes that are required to create an educational landscape that prepares learners for the challenges and opportunities of the future. Together, we can be the catalysts of change, igniting a spark within our profession and transforming the way education is delivered.

Want to learn more about PBL? Want to learn more about PBL?  Keen on Design Thinking?

Hop over to LaunchPad and complete our SACE-accredited Power of Project-based Learning and Design Thinking in your Classroom courses. 

Or bring us to your school or join us online for our Extreme Project Makeover or Breaking Down the Silos workshops.