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Readtopia Thematic Unit: Exploring Space
Neil deGrasse Tyson: Stargazer

Astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s impressive resumé includes the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, host of NOVA ScienceNow, and the inspiration for a curricular unit introducing middle and high school+ students receiving special education services to the solar system as part of comprehensive literacy instruction.
Cover of the Readtopia graphic novel - Neil deGrasse Tyson Stargzer and the title of this literacy instruction unit for middle and high school+ comprehensive literacy instruction

A Literacy Unit That Launches Students to the Stars

This curriculum takes learners on a journey beyond the confines of our blue planet and into the vast expanse of the universe. Titled “Exploring Space / Neil deGrasse Tyson: Stargazer,” this Readtopia unit harnesses our fascination with the cosmos into a dynamic educational odyssey that includes readings on the solar system, a moon landing, asteroids, and the James Webb Space Telescope.
Throughout the unit, students will enjoy videos on the life cycle of a star, the Hubble Space Telescope, and how we discovered supernovas, all while building vocabulary, integrating knowledge and ideas, developing reading and listening skills, and writing.

Who is Neil deGrasse Tyson?

Not many authors, and even fewer astrophysicists, become widely recognized public figures. Dr. Tyson’s Death By Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries (2014) became a New York Times bestseller, and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (2017) sold more than a million copies. He draws on his tenure in academia, his directorship at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City, his time on president-appointed commissions, and his position on NASA’s Advisory Council to bring his readers and listeners to the frontier of astronomical science.
Known for his informative yet playful style of speaking and writing, Dr. Tyson particularly enjoys teaching science to those who never thought they would be interested in the subject.

Stargazer Curricular Unit

In Stargazer, students will get to know Dr. Tyson: his love of dancing, his passion for science, and even his two favorite superheroes, Mighty Mouse and Superman. Through engaging stories and activities, students will cover content in science, social and emotional skills, social studies, and math.

Content area topics include:

  • Science: Asteroids, black holes, distance from the sun, telescopes, the life cycle of a star, the moon landing, nebulae, visiting a planetarium, solar eclipses, and the solar system

  • Math: Division, money, multiplication, number sense, statistics and probability, time

  • Social and emotional skills: Applying for a job, discovering a supernova, the joys of dancing

  • Social studies: Neil Armstrong

The nearly 200-page teacher guide is a robust resource filled with content for 79 lessons, including literature comprehension lessons, close reading lessons, video lessons, writing lessons, and math lessons. The unit includes explicit learning objectives that provide the information educators need to tie Readtopia Literature Comprehension, Close Reading, and Video Response lessons to your state standards.

Cover of the Teacher Guide for the Readtopia unit Exploring Space anchored in the story of Neil deGrasse Tyson with a yellow header and a photo of a gallexy
A black and white page showing some of the lessons in the 200+ page Teacher Guide for the Readtopia unit Exploring Space
Sample page from the Readtopia Teacher Guide for the Exploring Space unit showing teacher supports during anchor, read, apply lessons.
Students will learn through engaging, real-life scenarios. For example, one lesson asks students to help Neil earn money to buy a bigger telescope, while another helps students visualize what the sky looks like at night.
The release of this unit continues to build Readtopia’s comprehensive library of thematic units available to teachers. As students move toward functional literacy, they will learn, expand, and apply world knowledge to develop their understanding of the solar system and our universe.

If you don’t yet have Readtopia and would like to learn more about getting it for your school or district, please check out free Readtopia special education curriculum samples, request a quote, or contact us at for additional information.

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Karen A. Erickson, Ph.D.​

Karen A. Erickson, Ph.D. is Director of the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies at University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill. Her focus is on understanding the best ways to assess and teach reading and writing to children with the most severe disabilities. As a special education teacher, Dr. Erickson has worked to support students with a range of disabilities in a variety of classroom settings, particularly students who do not use speech as their primary means of communication.


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