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Understanding Null Grav Orientation

Educational Benefits:

  • break from actual reading/ literature, but still related
  • appeals to visual learners
  • brain teasers
  • allows better understanding of later chapters
  • cross-curricular tie to geometry - allows students who excel in math to demonstrate that, get affirmation for it, in English class
  • allows students to feel like they're the smart ones, like Ender, not one of the other "launchies"


  • either drawn or photocopied transparencies with the following figures
  • overhead projector
  • (opt. three meter sticks and some duct tape)

It'd actually be best to have two people, two space ships, and two planets.

Activity: These are just suggestions. Make up your own scenarios.

  1. Put the person on the screen and ask "What is down?" Never answer the question yourself, but always try to elicit a response.
  2. Orient the person on the screen so that the head is down and ask "What is down?"
  3. Place the planet on the "upside down" person's feet and ask "What is down?"
  4. Clear the screen and put to people oriented the opposite directions on the overhead. "What is down?"
  5. Put to spaceships over the people oriented the same direction, so it looks like they're in them, and ask "What is down?"
  6. Put a planet "above" the space ships. "What is down?"
  7. Etc. Etc. Etc.
  8. Have students arrange the figures in a puzzling manner.
  9. Put one person equidistant between two planets.

Follow-Up Questions:

  1. When can you use left/right?
  2. What other direction words do we use?
  3. Do you better understand the passage about Ender's sense of orientation on the shuttle? In the battle room? Why do the other kids get sick?
  4. "The enemy gate is down" works in the battle room, but will it work in space?
  5. What is down in space?
  6. How do two space ships talk about direction to each other? Think about your geometry class.

Optional Visual Crutch - Connection to Geometry

How do you plot a point on an axis? In two dimensions? In three dimensions?

This is where it'd be helpful to have the visual image of the axis so they could see the space. Either tell them, or lead them to discover on their own, that this method will only work IF and only IF everyone agrees as to where (0, 0, 0) is.

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