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Astronaut Training and the 4 C’s of STEM

Astronaut Training and the 4 C’s of STEM

Post by Michelle Bogden & Natasha Wilkerson

January 22, 2024

Unleash Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking in your Students!

Embark on a space adventure with your class! Challenge your students to complete astronaut training to collect all four badges: creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking! Read more on how to build foundational STEM skills through engaging and hands-on Stage 1 STEM activities through the theme of space exploration.

All About Astronaut Training

Astronaut training is rigorous and intense to prepare individuals for extreme space missions. This involves physical fitness to stay healthy, extensive technical training to operate spacecraft systems and conduct experiments, and survival skills for emergency situations, like how to handle spacecraft malfunctions and perform spacewalks. Equally important are “soft skills” that ensure astronauts can work together, communicate effectively, and solve any unexpected challenges!

While these skills are critical for astronauts, they are important for all students! The four C’s serve as foundational tools for lifelong learning and success. Read on for ways to incorporate these skills into your lessons. Below we outline 4 lessons with the full set of 18 activities found in our Astronaut Training unit.

Setting up the Mission

Students will start by designing and creating their very own mission patch. This mission patch will be used to collect “badges” in each category of Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking as they complete activities. The focal point of the mission patch is the concept of “Student Sparks,” Sparks were developed by the Search Institute, who explains them as follows: 

“Sparks are the activities and interests that truly engage kids to be their best. Research shows that kids who know and develop their sparks—and who have adults in their lives to help—have higher grades, better school attendance, and a sense of purpose.”

Incorporating student sparks throughout the unit establishes a meaningful connection with our students. Consider the following example: A student whose spark was singing. As she completed activities, she accumulated badges reflecting her achievements. Students have the opportunity to further personalize their Mission Patch by coloring and decorating the various badges they earn.

Student mission patch with the student’s chosen spark being singing.

Badge 1: Creativity

Why creativity? Astronauts often face unexpected challenges and situations that require creative thinking. The ability to think outside the box and develop innovative solutions on the fly is a critical skill for astronauts. Creativity is not just about creating something new; it is about being able to see things differently and solving problems that have never been solved before.

Practice Creativity: Creativity is a skill that can be developed! With practice, your students can apply these tools when brainstorming ideas during engineering design challenges. You can use these throughout your curriculum as bell ringers, homework, or before open-ended projects.

Which creativity tool do you think this scenario needs? Challenge students with the following scenario: 

You drop cookie crumbs in between the keys on your computer keyboard… and you have a paper clip handy. What would you do to keep the crumbs from falling in the keys? 

Students might say..You could use a paperclip to bend into a hook and scoop it out before it gets stuck underneath the keys.

Now, imagine you drop your phone between the seats in the car. You have a hanger with some duct tape. What could you do to safely retrieve the the phone? 

Students may remember the paperclip and the keyboard and use a clothes hanger and some duct tape to safely retrieve it before it slides into the abyss under the seat. 

Reinterpret! By changing the context, you’ve repurposed your idea to potentially create a new product!

Badge 2: Collaboration

Why Collaboration? Space missions are complex and demanding, requiring a high level of coordination and teamwork among astronauts. Collaboration is working well together with a team to achieve a common goal. 

Practice Collaboration:  Students can use collaboration to work together to design and construct space-themed structures with the Roll and Build activity!

Badge 3: Communication

Why communication? Communication  is sharing thoughts and information clearly and listening carefully to others.  Communication is vital for astronaut safety. It involves relaying critical information to ground control, coordinating tasks among the crew, and aiding in problem-solving during technical challenges. 

Practice Communication: Apply collaboration and problem-solving skills to a hands-on activity simulating a space mission challenge called Sneak a Peek!

Badge 4: Critical Thinking

Why Critical Thinking? Critical thinking is thinking carefully about problems and making evidence-based choices. Critical thinking allows astronauts to analyze, evaluate, and solve problems, make informed decisions, and respond to emergencies while working in confined and isolated conditions.

Practice Critical Thinking: Challenge students to ask questions to gather evidence with this Mystery Box activity. As more questions are asked, more specific evidence is gained.

As you can see, astronaut training is not just about physical fitness and technical knowledge; it’s also about developing soft skills like Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, and Critical Thinking. These skills not only help astronauts succeed in their missions but also make them versatile problem solvers ready to face any challenge!

Get the full Astronaut Training packet with editable handouts, teacher slides, storyline with real-world connections to space exploration, and a teacher’s guide! Find it here on VivifySTEM.com or in our Teachers Pay Teachers store!

Teachers Pay Teachers



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