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Fascinating Lessons and Projects on Outer Space

Sep 30, 2018 by

There are few classroom lessons that captivate and mystify students as much as learning about outer space. From exploring the stars and constellations to naming the planets, their distance from the sun and their different atmospheres, most students are fascinated with learning about outer space. Depending on the age of the students, you can incorporate countless activities, lessons, and experiments to help them explore the wonder of our atmosphere. Here are a few tips and tricks for getting started along with projects ideas for multiple grade levels.

Use the Internet

It’s no secret that the introduction of the world wide web has completely transformed how most classrooms are run. Teachers now have access to resources, information, and interactive tools that help enhance the student experience. And when it comes to learning about outer space, the internet offers some amazing tools.

Google Earth is a pretty neat resource that students can use to view the atmosphere. Not only can they find their own home in their own neighborhood, or even their school, but Google Earth allows you to view any location around the world from a variety of vantage points. Check out the Voyager feature that offers interactive experience from around the world. Students can explore the inner workings of the International Space Station by utilizing Google Maps. This interactive, 360 degree experience allows students to navigate inside the ISS by looking up, down, out, and around the space. The navigation tools are easy to use and every student can have the opportunity to explore what the inside of a space station is really like.

When you think of the Smithsonian, history likely comes to mind. But the Smithsonian Education website provides students with a basic introduction and understanding of the universe. This site is great for elementary or even pre-K students when used alongside the teacher.

If you’re discussing space travel, the shuttle countdown website is the perfect place for students to learn about how the final countdown works and even view live videos of shuttles taking off. This website is powered by NASA and offers other amazing features like behind the scenes footage, and current missions alongside past and future ones. If you’re lucky enough to live near NASA, teachers can organized interactive experiences and activities as part of an unforgettable class trip.

Projects and Snacks

Another great way for students of all ages to experience outer space and learn about the universe is by completing projects. This offers a hands-on experience and a deeper understanding of the material. Of course, depending on the student’s age, some projects may be more fun than informative but when done right, you can achieve both.

Snacks are a fun and delicious way to drive home concepts. There are countless out of this world snack ideas for young students. After learning about the shuttles and rockets that travel into outer space, try making fruit kabob rocket ships. Strawberries are the perfect shape for the top of the rocket. You can use grapes, blueberries, and pineapples to create the body of the rocket. These adorable snacks are both delicious and nutritious. Who doesn’t love cheese and crackers? Take a circular cracker and top it with yellow cheese. Then, add smaller pieces of triangular yellow cheese around the outside and voila! You’ve created a healthy snack that resembles the sun. You can discuss facts about the sun while students nibble on this yummy treat. Trail mix is a versatile snack idea that can be applied to almost any lesson. Try making astronaut mix with students. You can use popcorn, pretzels, raisins, goldfish, and a chocolate candy to create a colorful and healthy snack. If you really want students to experience what it’s like to be in orbit order some real space food for them to try. These include freeze dried ice cream and fruit. Kids will love tasting what real astronauts eat in space.

There are so many awesome outer space project ideas for students to complete both in the classroom and at home. The age of the students often determines the level of complexity and parent involvement in the projects. If students are working in the classroom, have them use Q-tips and glue to recreate famous constellations on black paper. When teaching the students about the distance of the planets from the sun, try an interactive activity. Have the students hold different size balls and string. Place one student in the middle holding a large, yellow ball that represents the sun while other students stand at different distances away holding other balls of various sizes that represent the different planets. You can even have the students hold strings of different lengths to show the distance of the planets from the sun and from each other. You can use clay to examine the different layers of the Earth or have younger students build a paper mache replica of the Earth.

Older students will need more challenging activities. Have them explore their mathematical skills by calculating the mass of the Earth or investigate the orbital speed of the planets.

Outside Experiences

If you’re discussing outer space and the atmosphere, what better way to truly explore than to get outside? If it’s possible, plan an evening star gazing event. You telescopes to help students get a close up look of the planets, stars, and galaxies. Students can find and identify the different constellations, even drawing their own rendition of the groupings. If you want to capture photos of what you see, Telescope Observer is perfect for this. If you aren’t able to schedule a nighttime adventure such as this, visiting a planetarium is the next best thing. Here, students will get a crystal clear picture and understanding of the solar system, stars, and galaxies. Planetariums offer educational lessons and tutorials while students sit back and enjoy in comfortable seats that allow them an unobstructed view of the ceiling above.

Stay up to date on when meteor showers, solar eclipses, and other atmospheric wonders are occurring and encourage students to get outside and experience them first hand.

Read

Nothing can replace a good book in terms of providing students facts and both fiction and non-fiction stories that reinforce classroom lessons. For younger students, try incorporating books with realistic pictures and facts. Books like Little Kids First Big Book of Space will mystify and intrigue students with real pictures of planets, amazing facts, and colorful, larger than life photographs. If you’re looking for a fun story to engage kids, look no further than Dr. Seuss’ There’s No Place Like Space. Other titles perfect for young learners include:

  • A Moon of My Own by Jennifer Rustgi
  • The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield
  • Mousetronaut by Mark Kelly (an astronaut)
  • Once Upon a Starry Night by Jacqueline Mitton

Young students will also enjoy reading about real life astronauts like Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. Here are some titles about real life figures that played a role in the history of NASA and outer space discovery.

  • Hidden Figures: Young Readers Edition by Margo Lee Shettley
  • Chasing Space: Young Readers Edition by Leland Melvin
  • Women in Space: 23 Stories of First Flights, Scientific Missions and Gravity-Breaking Adventures by Karen Bush Gibson

Celebrate and Sing

Like books, songs are extremely beneficial for students. Not only do they teach patterns, rhythm, and melody but it’s believed that when facts are put to music that it actually helps students remember them more easily. So incorporating fun and fascinating songs into the classroom can actually help reinforce facts and figures while having fun. Here are just a few songs to incorporate into your outer space lesson.

  • The Countdown Song by Jim Thorne
  • Matter is Everywhere by J.P. Taylor
  • Our Solar System by Music, Movement & Magination
  • Energy by Ken Whiteley
  • Kepler Said by Professor Boggs
  • Blast Off! by Stephanie Burton

Sing these songs during your meeting time, for transitional periods, and just for fun! The repetition will help students remember important facts about outer space.

Who doesn’t love a good party? There are a couple of great things you can celebrate while learning about planet Earth and the universe. Earth Day is April 22. Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement which occured in 1970. The purpose of Earth day is to promote environmental protection. What’s amazing about Earth Day is that it’s actually celebrated in over 190 countries. This means there are thousands of educational events happening across the world on this day, all organized by the Earth Day Network. Celebrate this day in the classroom by having a party. Explain the importance of preserving planet Earth to students while tying in lessons on environmental health. You can also use this as an opportunity to discuss what makes planet Earth different from other planets including its atmosphere, temperature, and resources.

National Astronaut Day is May 5th, which means your class can celebrate this day following Earth day. This is extremely convenient for lesson planning purposes. On National Astronaut Day you celebrate astronauts as true heroes. Astronauts are always encouraging young learners to reach for the stars – figuratively and literally! You can celebrate by discussing famous astronauts, sharing your “out of this world” dreams and goals, and sharing facts about the training and experience astronauts need to travel into outer space.

Learning about the solar system and the universe in which we live is an important lesson for students of all ages. This is the perfect way to help students acknowledge and recognize a world outside of their own. By introducing outer space lessons in the classroom, you are broadening student’s horizons and opening up their minds and imaginations to science and endless possibilities.

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