Mae Jemison


Mae Jemison is a high-interest reading comprehension lesson that allows students to practice grade-appropriate reading comprehension, foundational reading, and reading fluency skills. These reading comprehension lessons are designed to be completed in one or two class settings.

Each lesson discusses a subject that students want to read about and that teachers will want to incorporate into their reading instruction. The lesson is appropriate as a whole-class, stand-alone lesson or as an independent small-group activity. Be sure to check if there is a Learn Bright video that goes with this lesson!

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What our Mae Jemison lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Mae Jemison is a high-interest reading comprehension lesson plan. As such, students will practice various close reading and comprehension skills. In addition, they will learn about this incredible woman and her contributions to our history. This lesson is for students in 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th 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.

Teacher Notes

The paragraph on this page gives you a little more information on the lesson overall and describes what you may want to focus your teaching on. It explains that you can teach this lesson in a whole-class setting or as an independent, small-group activity. The blank lines are available for you to write out any thoughts or ideas you have as you prepare.


Mae Jemison—Astronaut

The Mae Jemison lesson plan contains three content pages. Do you like reading stories about space? Have you ever thought of being an astronaut? Do stories of triumph despite great odds interest you? If so, the story of how Mae Jemison became the first African- American female to explore outer space is just for you!

Mae Jemison has an incredible résumé! As an astronaut, she was the first African-American woman to fly in space. Before becoming an astronaut, she received undergraduate degrees in chemical engineering and African-American studies from Stanford University. If that’s not impressive enough, she started college when she was just sixteen!

Next up was medical school at Cornell. After graduating with her medical degree, Jemison became a Peace Corps medical officer and a medical doctor. She also speaks fluent Russian, Japanese, and Swahili. But we still aren’t done talking about Mae Jemison’s incredible accomplishments!

Jemison is more than just a great student. She is a popular author of several books, including a children’s book called Find Where the Wind Goes. She has appeared on several television shows and made guest appearances on shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation. Plus, she was the first real astronaut to appear on the show. She played the part of Lt. Palmer, a transporter officer.

Her Path to NASA

Mae Jemison was born in 1956 in Decatur, Alabama. Her mother was an elementary school teacher, and her father was a maintenance supervisor. The family moved to Chicago, where Jemison attended school. She loved dance and science. However, what really got her attention was the Apollo space flights. Nearly all the space flights were televised in the early years of the Apollo missions. Jemison became fascinated by space and space missions. What bothered her was that there were no female astronauts. In the early part of the NASA space missions, it was believed space exploration was too dangerous for women.

Here is where the Star Trek connection comes in! In the Star Trek television series, there is a female African-American character named Lt. Uhura. Lt. Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols on television and in several Star Trek movies, was a communications officer and critical character in the series. At an early age, Jemison was inspired by Nichols and determined that she wanted to travel in space.

You may be thinking Jemison was brilliant and academically gifted. School must have been really easy for her. Unfortunately, that was not always the case. Jemison was one of the few African-American females in her class. She was discriminated against because of her race and her young age, and for being female. After graduating from Stanford and Cornell, she became a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Then, in 1985, she decided to pursue her goal of becoming an astronaut.

Jemison applied to NASA, but unfortunately, a terrible disaster happened in 1986. The space shuttle Challenger exploded in mid-air. All of the astronauts aboard died in the accident. One of them was Christa Corrigan McAuliffe, a schoolteacher. The explosion halted the shuttle program and all space flights. The tragedy was a stark reminder of the dangers of space flight and space travel. Jemison would have to wait another year before the program accepted new astronauts.

Life as an Astronaut

In 1987, Jemison’s application to NASA was approved. Competition for the position was fierce, with more than 2,000 applicants. Jemison became one of just 15 chosen out of the 2,000. She was the first African-American female astronaut. Her engineering and medical training paid off, too. She was assigned the position of Science Mission Specialist. She was responsible for all the scientific experiments aboard the space shuttle.

Jemison trained for five years before she went into space. On September 12, 1992, Jemison finally realized her dream of being an astronaut. She and six other astronauts flew aboard the space shuttle Endeavor. She spent roughly 190 hours in space and orbited 127 times around the planet before returning to Earth on September 20. After years of schooling and experiencing discrimination, Mae Jemison had reached her goal of becoming an astronaut. In 1993, she left NASA to pursue other interests in public service.

In an interview in 2012, Jemison said, “I always knew I would go to space, and I always assumed I would be a scientist. I wanted to be a professional dancer for a period of time, and I did a lot of dancing and choreography and got paid for it. I also wanted to be a fashion designer, and I wanted to do a lot of other things. But I always assumed that I’d be involved in science.”


The Mae Jemison lesson plan includes two worksheets: an activity worksheet and a practice worksheet. 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.


For the activity, students will compare and contrast Mae Jemison and Sally Ride using a Venn diagram. They will need to research Sally Ride to find information they can use in the graphic organizer. You may choose to use our Sally Ride lesson plan and could even teach the two lessons at the same time or consecutively.


The practice worksheet requires students to answer a series of 10 questions. These questions all relate to the content pages, so students will need to refer to them often for the answers. In addition, each question provides which reading tool the question corresponds to, such as text feature, vocabulary, or comprehension.

Worksheet Answer Keys

At the end of the lesson plan document is an answer key for the practice worksheet. The correct answers are all in red to make it easier for you to compare them with students’ responses. Given the nature of some of the prompts, there may be some variation in student answers. 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


Biography, Social Studies, High-Interest Reading

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.