ISS International Space Station


ISS 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 ISS 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 US 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. The International Space Station (ISS) is one of the most technologically advanced and unique feats of engineering in the world. It is difficult to imagine the enormity or the complexity of the ISS. Students should go to the NASA website and view videos from astronauts and engineers to get an idea of how advanced this spacecraft is.

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.


The Start of Living in Space

The ISS International Space Station lesson plan has three content pages. Students will first learn about what started the race to space. Do you know what happened on July 20, 1969? Neil Armstrong was the first human to land and walk on the moon. From that time forward, the goal was that someday people might be able to live in space for several weeks, months, or maybe years. And the idea to build a craft that orbits the earth with humans living aboard was born!

On November 2, 2000, one American (Bill Shepherd) and two Russians (Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev) began living on the International Space Station. They started preparing the ISS for others and stayed for four months to finish making it habitable.

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. Two weeks later, the Endeavor—a United States space shuttle—carried the Unity node component. The first two pieces were joined together, and the building of the International Space Station was underway.

Since 1998, there have been several dozen expeditions to this home in space. Six-person crews regularly live and work in the space station. In 2009, the record for the largest gathering in space was set when the Endeavor, carrying seven crew members, docked with the ISS, which already housed six crew members. Thirteen people were in space simultaneously, the largest number ever in history. That’s a lot of people in a small space!

Space Station Design and Living

Because most crews stay anywhere from four to six months, the station must be as accommodating and as comfortable as possible for the crew members. 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 ISS can also support some visitors. The station is about the size of a football field. And it would weigh about one million pounds on Earth.

When it comes to living on the ISS, there are several important parts that make it run smoothly: laboratories, living areas, solar arrays, robotic arms, airlocks, and docking ports. Laboratories are the places where the astronauts conduct scientific research and experiments that we cannot do anywhere else. The research benefits the people on Earth. Some can possibly lead to new treatments for diseases and other conditions.

The living areas include two bathrooms, gym facilities, and a 360-degree bay window, in addition to the areas where the astronauts sleep and eat. The solar arrays collect energy from the sun to provide electrical power. They are connected to a long truss, which includes radiators that control the station’s temperature.

Robotic arms are located on the outside of the station. The astronauts can use them to help build the station. Some arms also move astronauts around during spacewalks. Astronauts can also use other arms for space experiments. Finally, docking ports allow other spacecraft to connect, crews and visitors to arrive, and supplies to be delivered.

Interesting Facts about the ISS

Students will discover that many people helped build the International Space Station. About 100,000 people, 16 countries, and hundreds of companies are responsible for its design and construction, which cost more than 100 billion dollars to build. Every year, it costs several millions of dollars to maintain. The partnership of the ISS includes the US, Russia, Japan, Canada, and many European countries, such as the UK, Italy, Spain, France, and more.

The ISS orbits about 240 miles above the earth. But under the right conditions, you can actually see it in the night sky. In addition to the research on the station, scientists also use the ISS to study Earth and its environment. They can observe weather changes on land and on the seas. The station circles the earth about once every 90 minutes, traveling at 17,500 miles per hour!

Currently, the plan is for the space station to operate until at least 2028. After 2028, the fate of the ISS is unclear. Many scientists would like to replace it or renovate it for future use. Several countries in the original partnership plan to build their own space stations. Several private companies are also looking to place space stations in outer space in the future.

The International Space Station has been, and will continue to be, beneficial to many people 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 or copy the current ISS. The designs should accommodate at least 6 astronauts and 2 visitors. 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.


The practice worksheet requires students to compare and contrast what life is like on Earth versus what it is like on the ISS. Students will write down how the two differ in their respective circles. They will write down the similarities in the overlapping area. Finally, students will answer the prompts at the bottom of the page.


For the homework assignment, students will consider a scenario in which they live on the ISS with four other astronauts and scientists from other countries. They will think about and write down possible challenges and obstacles they would face in the situation. Then they will come up with solutions to overcome those challenges.

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. Given the nature of the assignments, students’ answers will vary. 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


3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade



State Educational Standards


Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.