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NASA Scientist Featured in New Readtopia Thematic Unit

Readtopia is now 30 units strong! Building Wings has launched a new Readtopia thematic unit called Making Dreams Come True. It is anchored by the original reader, “Diana Trujillo: A Space Scientist.”

Making Dreams Come True is Readtopia’s first upper elementary unit about space.

Why did the Readtopia team decide to feature Diana Trujillo? How will her story support literacy learning for students? Continue reading to find out.

What is Readtopia?

Readtopia is an online special education curriculum for teaching standards-aligned comprehensive literacy. It presents leveled instructional content in thematic units to engage elementary, middle, and high school students with complex learning barriers.

Across the country, thousands of educators rely on Readtopia to meet the broadest range of student needs.

A teacher smiles at a laughing student, while the student presents in front of a smart board in a classroom.

Who is Diana Trujillo?

Colombian immigrant. First-generation college graduate. NASA scientist. Diana Trujillo’s path to becoming an aerospace engineer shows resilience and perseverance.

Trujillo was born in 1983 in Colombia, a country that experienced political violence and terrorism throughout the 1980s. During her childhood, Trujillo found a safe place among the stars. She was fascinated by the night sky and dreamed of becoming a NASA scientist.

When Trujillo graduated high school, she decided to go after her goal. At 17, she immigrated to the U.S. alone, carrying just $300 and not knowing any English.

In the U.S., Trujillo took English lessons, worked full-time, and enrolled in college. A professor introduced her to the NASA Academy. Trujillo applied and became the first Latina immigrant to gain admission.

Since graduating from college, Trujillo has worked in several roles for NASA. Today, she is a technical group supervisor for NASA Sequence Planning and Execution and the tactical mission lead for the Mars Perseverance rover.

Headshot of Diana Trujillo in front of the NASA logo.

“When you keep trying, people say that you have perseverance. Diana knows all about perseverance. She has been dreaming about space since she was a little girl.”

–Excerpt from “Diana Trujillo: A Space Scientist”

Why Diana Trujillo?

The Readtopia team developed a thematic unit about Trujillo to inspire students and educators while honoring its commitment to diversity and inclusion.

A Source of Inspiration

Trujillo embodies the Building Wings mission. From an early age, she knew she was capable of achieving an ambitious goal. Similarly, Building Wings believes all students are capable of experiencing breakthroughs in their learning. “Diana shows that all our dreams are within reach,” said Mary Krenz, Readtopia project manager. “We hope her story inspires educators and students to reach for their fullest potential. With opportunity and the right tools, students with complex learning barriers can soar to new heights in their learning and beyond.” Every Readtopia thematic unit is an opportunity to ensure students facing the biggest learning challenges can read, write, and communicate to their fullest potential.

Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion

Across the country, more school districts are demanding curricula that reflect the students they serve. We have heard the call and are amplifying our efforts to answer it. Making Dreams Come True is just one example. Building Wings will soon be launching more thematic units that reflect the history and culture of students of all backgrounds. At Building Wings, ALL means ALL. We are committed to developing alternative instructional materials that support and represent every learner.

Read more about the Building Wings mission.
2 students look animatedly at a incomplete robot in front of them on a table.

What Will Students Learn from Making Dreams Come True?

Each of Readtopia’s thematic units connects subject learning through a narrative. In this case, the Making Dreams Come True thematic unit is anchored by the leveled reader, “Diana Trujillo: A Space Scientist.”

Students will explore Diana’s personal and professional lives. They will learn about her upbringing in Colombia, her drive to come to the U.S., and her determination to learn English and attend college. The thematic unit also dives into Diana’s groundbreaking work as a NASA scientist.

Learners will cover numerous content-area topics, including:

  • Science: Gravity, Earth, Mars, NASA History, Robotics, and the Solar System
  • Social-Emotional: Teamwork
  • Math: Money, Fractions, Operations & Algebraic Thinking, Subtraction, and Time

Like every Readtopia thematic unit, Making Dreams Come True contains six to eight weeks of differentiated instructional content. The 112 lessons take 15 to 30 minutes each, allowing for flexible instruction throughout the day.

Watch our on-demand webinar for a sneak peek inside Readtopia.

Cover of the graphic novel "Diana Trujillo: A Space Scientist. By Helen Sillett", shows an animated image of the NASA aerospace engineer.

What Are the Instructional Components?

All Readtopia thematic units contain instructional components that fully engage students. Making Dreams Come True features videos, leveled readers and informational text, and much more.

Teacher Guide

The Making Dreams Come True teacher guide provides comprehensive guidance for educators. It has complete and clear instructions and tip sheets to ensure educators have the resources to engage students fully.
Headshot of Diana Trujillo next to NASA logo, with text overlay that reads, "Making Dreams Come True. Anchored by Diana Trujillo: A Space Scientist. Readtopia Teacher Guide. Building Wings."

Videos

Readtopia includes video lessons in every thematic unit to help students visualize new concepts. The videos introduce vocabulary, build background knowledge, and develop mental models to support learning. Making Dreams Come True videos depict Diana’s life and take learners inside NASA facilities and space shuttles.
Readtopia Video screenshot of an astronaut on a rock in space, next to a satellite.

Leveled Readers 

Readtopia differentiates reading materials so educators can meet the widest range of student needs. The anchor text in Making Dreams Come True, “Diana Trujillo: A Space Scientist,” has five levels.
Screenshot of Chapter 1 of "Diana Trujillo: A NASA Scientist". On the page is a headshot of Diana Trujillo and an animated picture of her in front of a space ship. Text overlay reads, "Chapter 1: A Landing. My name is Diana. I am a scientist. I live in the United States. I work at NASA. At NASA, we study about space."
Animated image of Diana Trujillo with text overlay that reads, "This woman is a scientist - a space scientist. Her name is Diana Trujillo. Diana is feeling excited - and nervous. She sis waiting for some big news.

Informational Text

There are three levels of informational text in this new thematic unit. The text covers science, social studies, and social/emotional topics related to the anchor reader.
Screenshot of a readtopia lesson about Mars. 4 pictures over a white background with text overlay. Text reads, "Amazing Mars. There are eight planets in our Solar System. Mars and earth are neighbors! Let's learn more about Mars. Mars has the tallest mountain in our Solar System. Mars is called the Red Planet. Can you see why? Nasa has sent five rovers to explore Mars."

Predictable Chart Writing

Predictable chart writing lessons allow students at all reading levels to participate in structured and systematic shared writing activities. Making Dreams Come True uses illustrations and photos of the night sky to engage students in brainstorming words and illustrating sentences.
Screenshot of an image of people around a campfire with a view of the night sky in a Readtopia lesson.

Phonics

Making Dreams Come True has three levels of phonics instruction lessons. They build alphabetic awareness, teach students to spell and decode single-syllable words, and engage students in independent phonics learning.
Screenshot of Readtopia Instructional Unit with text overlay on multi colored sticky notes. Text reads, "1. Letter name identification. 2. Letter sound identification. 3. Recognizing the letter in the text. 4. Producing the letter form.

Integrated Math

Learners can engage with four levels of integrated math lessons in Making Dreams Come True. Each level connects basic mathematical concepts with the thematic content through video/vocabulary lessons, hands-on application lessons, or independent practice.
Screenshot of Readtopia independant practice math lesson, with pictures depicting different amounts of items to count.

Built-In Assessment

Readtopia makes it easy for educators to collect and compare student resources to instruction. Making Dreams Come True has short, leveled quizzes that give a snapshot of students’ reading comprehension. At the end of the unit, there is a leveled end-of-book assessment, close reading assessment, and math unit assessment.
Screenshot of a Readtopia vocabulary word - image matching game.

What’s Next for Readtopia?

The Readtopia team is working on more thematic units highlighting living people from diverse backgrounds. Stay tuned for more details! In the meantime, read about other recent additions to the Readtopia curriculum:

Try Readtopia Free

Readtopia educators already have access to this thematic unit. If you are not yet part of the Readtopia family, try a sample of Readtopia for free!

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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.

Website: https://www.med.unc.edu/ahs/clds

Author Profile: https://products.brookespublishing.com/cw_Contributorinfo.aspx?ContribID=110&Name=Karen+Erickson,Ph.D.

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