International Space Station


International Space Station is a unique lesson that teaches students about this incredible structure. Students will learn about the history behind the development and construction of the station. They will also discover interesting facts about its design and the people who worked on it.

There are quite a few suggestions listed in the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page that you could incorporate into the lesson. For instance, one idea is to have students give “tours” of the space station after turning the classroom into the inside of the international space station.

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What our International Space Station lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: International Space Station explores the history and construction of this important structure in outer space. Students will discover the role Russia and the U.S. played in building the space station. They will also learn about its design and other interesting facts. This lesson is for students in 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. This lesson requires colored pencils and rulers, as well as various materials for part 2 of the activity if you choose to do it.

Options for Lesson

The “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page provides several suggestions of ideas and activities to add to the lesson. A few relate to the activity portion. Students could work alone or in larger groups for the activity. You could also assign the activity as an at-home project rather than doing it in class. Students could vote on best, most creative, etc. design once they all finish. Another option is to assign students one astronaut who has spent time on the ISS. Students could then present the information they find to the class. Invite an amateur astronomer to speak to the class and answer questions students have. You could plan an “International Space Day” during which you invite other classes in the school to visit the room to view the space station models your students created. One more idea is to have students give “tours” of your classroom after you transform it into the inside of the international space station.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page provides an extra paragraph of information to help guide the lesson. It suggests teaching this lesson in conjunction with others about outer space. It also invites you to use resources available to you from NASA to help students learn even more. You can use the blank lines to write down any other ideas or thoughts you have about the topic as you prepare.


Space Travel

The International Space Station lesson plan has two pages of content. It begins by asking students if they know what happened on July 20, 1969. The answer is that this is when the first person, Neil Armstrong, landed and walked on the moon. Of course, prior to that date, many other missions to space had already taken place. Astronauts circled the earth and moon many times and have done so many times after the first moon landing.

Ever since humans could explore space, it became a goal to someday live in space for several weeks, months, or maybe years. Would people begin to live on the moon or another planet? Would they be sent on a long journey into space to visit a faraway planet like Neptune? And would they live, work, play, and raise families in space some day?

These are just some of many questions that may one day be answered by scientists, astronomers, astronauts, and others who have studied the possibility of living in space. Students will discover, however, that people did begin living in space on November 2, 2000. Where do they live? On the International Space Station (ISS).

The Beginning

In November of 1998, a Russian rocket launched and carried the first piece of the International Space Station into space. The piece was called the Zarya control module. About two weeks later, a United States space shuttle, the Endeavour, carried a piece called the Unity node. The first two pieces were joined together, and the building of the International Space Station was underway.

For two more years, rockets transported many more pieces into space until the station was ready for inhabitants on November 2, 2000. The first space station crew consisted of a three-person team. Two were cosmonauts from Russia and one was an American astronaut, William Shepherd. Their expedition began on October 31, 2000, and they returned to Earth on March 21, 2001. For nearly five months, the astronauts lived and worked together on the International Space Station.

Over the next 16 years, there were nearly 50 more expeditions to this home in space. The three-person teams were cut to two following the Columbia shuttle disaster. Later, six-person crews regularly lived and worked in the space station. Of course, prior to the bigger crews, the space station’s size had been expanded. In 2009, the record for the largest gathering in space was set. The Endeavour, with seven crew members, docked with the ISS, which already had six crew members aboard. Thirteen people were in space at the same time, the largest number ever in history.

International Space Station Design

Since most crews stay anywhere from four to six months, the station must be accommodating and as comfortable as possible. The size of the space station is equal to the volume of a five-bedroom house or two 747 airplanes. Not only can the crew live there, but the station can also support some visitors. The station is about the size of a football field, including the end zones. On Earth, it would weigh about one million pounds total.

There are several parts of the space station where astronauts live and work, such as the laboratories. In these labs, astronauts conduct research and experiments that could not be done anywhere else. There are also living areas. Along with the rooms where astronauts eat and sleep, there are two bathrooms, gym facilities, and a 360° bay window.

In addition, the ISS has solar arrays that collect the sun’s energy to provide electrical power. They connect to a long truss, which includes radiators that control the station’s temperature. Students will discover that the ISS also has robotic arms! The arms help build the station and move astronauts around during spacewalks.

Naturally, airlocks and docking ports are also part of the space station. Astronauts pass through the airlocks to go outside the station for spacewalks. The docking ports allow other spacecrafts to connect when transporting other crews and visitors or supplies.

Other Space Station Facts

The International Space Station was built by many people. In all about 100,000 people are responsible for its design and construction. Those people come from 16 countries and hundreds of companies. The station cost nearly 100 billion dollars to build. It is a partnership, which includes the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and several European countries, such as the UK, Italy, Spain, France, and more.

It is located about 220 miles above the earth and is visible in the night sky. In addition to the research on the station, scientists also use the station to study the earth itself and its environment. They can see weather changes on land and seas. The station circles Earth about once every 90 minutes, traveling at 17,500 miles per hour. The current plan (as of 2016) is for the space station to be operated until at least 2020.

The International Space Station has been, and will continue to be, beneficial to many people and for many reasons. NASA will also use what they learn to one day explore other worlds, reaching farther into space than ever before. The space station information will help prepare for human missions in the future.


The International Space Station lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each one will help students solidify their grasp of the material they learned throughout the lesson. You can refer to the classroom procedure guidelines to know when to hand out each worksheet.


Students will work cooperatively with a partner for the activity. They will design their own version of an international space station. Their designs should be unique, not copies of the current space station. Students should also ensure they collaborate and use a collection of both of their ideas. Some of the elements they should include are laboratories, solar arrays, robotic arms, and docking ports.

Before creating a final design, students should sketch a rough draft. Their final designs will include information about each part of the station as well as labels. To enhance the pictures, they can use colored pencils or other colored writing utensils. Once part one is complete, they can move on to part two of the activity.

For part two, students will turn their 2D models into 3D models. You will supply students with the necessary materials to create their models. Once students complete their space stations, they will present them to the class.


There are two sections on the practice worksheet. For the first section, students will match numbers to their meanings as they relate to the international space station. For example, the number 16 refers to the number of partner countries responsible for the ISS. The second section requires students to answer W questions related to the international space station.


For the homework assignment, students will fill in the blanks throughout a paragraph. They will use the 12 terms in the word bank at the top of the page. The bottom of the page provides a math prompt. Students will use a calculator to solve the problem and answer the question.

Worksheet Answer Keys

The lesson plan provides answer keys for the practice and homework worksheets. All the correct answers are in red to make it easy to compare them to students’ responses. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information




4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade

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    United States United States

    This unit was out of this world!

    Easy to use. Open and go. I thoroughly enjoyed the number of inter-curricular items that came with this unit. I most certainly will purchase another item from this vendor.

    United States United States

    Leads to a big project for me

    I use this every year before my class designs and builds a space station model of their own. They love it and learn a lot about the space station and the different parts needed for it to function.

    Australia Australia

    Quality resource

    A good resource that has been well developed and helpful for teachers.

    Deborah K.
    US US


    Thank you. I really appreciate all the fantastic materials you have shared with me. I'm excited to get to use them in the classroom.