Lesson plan

Get to Know Mae Jemison

Mae Jemison was the first African American female astronaut to enter space. Use the Get to Know Mae Jemison lesson plan to learn more about this famous scientist. Children will then read and write about her, and create their own paper rocket.
Grade Subject View aligned standards

Students will be able to read and write about famous scientist Mae Jemison, then create their own paper rocket.

(7 minutes)
  • Introduce the video by asking students if they have ever seen a space shuttle take off, and what they think they will see when they watch the video.
  • Play the video STS-129 HD Launch starting from 1:13-2:10 to show the takeoff of a space shuttle. This video shows a countdown, takeoff, and the rocket boosters coming off the shuttle at around 3:30.
  • Ask students to share what they saw in the video. There will be vocabulary that students may not understand, so focus on the details of what they saw, rather than what the spokesperson says. You can mute the video and narrate yourself if that's helpful.
  • Tell students they will learn more about the first African American female astronaut to enter into space. Mae Jemison rode a space shuttle just like the one in the video.
(7 minutes)
  • Explain that an astronaut is someone who is trained to travel into space on an aerospace vehicle. They are usually scientists.
  • Show photos of Mae Jemison in space using the photo link in the materials section.
  • Hold a discussion with students about what they see in the pictures. Allow them to guess where Mae is and what she is in. (A space shuttle.)
  • Share a little information about Mae Jemison. Tell students that Mae Jemison was the first African American woman to enter space. She is a doctor, researcher, and dancer. After becoming a doctor, she joined the Peace Corps and served in Africa. Later, she joined NASA and became a crew member of the space shuttle Endeavour. After her travels in space, she left NASA to start companies and to continue researching how to get to a new star.
(10 minutes)
  • Display and distribute the All About Mae Jemison reader to the students. Allow them to flip through the pages and preview the booklet.
  • Ask students to share with their partners what they think the reader is about and what they will do with the reader.
  • Choose volunteers to read one page each of the reader (eight volunteers total) while the other students follow along in their reader.
  • After reading the booklet, ask students to turn back to their partners and talk about whether they were right about what they thought they would read.
  • Review page five of the booklet that has the map of the United States. Ask students to color in the states that have the stars, which represent where Mae lived. Then they can circle whatever state they are in now.
(7 minutes)
  • Ask students to pair up again and reread the booklet. They can trace the sight words as they read the text.
  • Have students share one thing they learned about Mae Jemison from the booklet.


  • Provide sentence frames for the writing portion.
  • Display vocabulary words and visuals for each word that students can use in their writing. For example: astronaut, space shuttle, doctor, scientist.
  • Encourage students to look through the reader for key words and spelling while they are writing.


  • Encourage students to write more than one sentence about Mae Jemison, using pronouns as well.
  • Choose students to help read the booklet with the class.
  • Give students the worksheet Who is Mae Jemison? to read more about Jemison if they are interested. Allow them to answer the questions too, if time allows.
(9 minutes)
  • Distribute the Write About Mae Jemison worksheet and review the directions about what students should do on the worksheet.
  • Have students write one sentence about Mae Jemison. Allow students to share their sentence aloud with a partner before writing it down.
(20 minutes)
  • Choose volunteers to share their sentence.
  • Tell your students to imagine Mae Jemison was successful at finding out how to get to another star, and that they are an astronaut on the space shuttle travelling to that solar system.
  • Have students create a paper rocket ship. (See the rocket ship craft picture example in the materials section.) They can use the following pieces to assemble the rocket ship:
    • a long rectangle for the body of the ship
    • a triangle for the top of the ship
    • little circles or squares for the windows
    • two rhombuses for the fins at the bottom of the rocket
    • wavy flames for the exhaust
  • Have your students glue all the pieces of the rocket as seen in the picture in the materials section. See the rocket ship craft picture example in the materials section for ideas on what the ship should look like.
  • Ask your students to cut out their face from their picture to add to one of the windows of the rocket. Now they can really imagine themselves reaching for the stars, just like Mae Jemison!

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