Exploring Space in the Classroom
And a few ways to tackle this subject with elementary students.
Teaching about outer space and space exploration is important and I have reasons to share. But first, a story…
When the movie Apollo 13 was showing in theaters our children were 8 and 11. We decided to take them to see the movie as a way to learn some history of the space program. At that time they both had knowledge that astronauts had been to the moon, but all they had seen in the news was coverage of the space shuttle program.
We watched that movie on the edge of our seats! Y’all it was pretty suspenseful and I knew the outcome! We enjoyed the movie so much, but here is the thing I remember. As we left the theater my daughter (age 8) said, “I was so scared they were going to die.”
Worst mom ever award for me! I should have assured both children that the movie would have a good ending. I knew the history. They did not.
The history of the space program is the number 1 reason we should teach about space!
Reasons we should study about exploring space
1. Children do need to know the history. Many of our children right now only know about space shuttles and if you ask them, they will tell you space shuttles went to the moon. If you can find a video of the 1969 moon landing, show it to your students. (btw- I watched that landing on television with my grandfather. Imagine how he felt in seeing men walking on the moon!)
2. Space exploration involves a tremendous amount of engineering. This is a big part of the Apollo 13 movie. In my STEM classes, I use the example of how the astronauts were saved by engineering some wonky materials into an oxygen device to save their lives.
3. Science Fiction, anyone? Your students that enjoy nonfiction or science fiction love learning more about space exploration.
4. We still have astronauts today! Even though the shuttle program is not operational on this date doesn’t mean we don’t have young people studying and committing to the future space program. Just a few days ago the first all-woman crew performed a spacewalk to repair parts of the Space Station. What an encouragement to the girls (and boys) in our classes!
I have ideas to help you with exploring space.
I have several great ways to celebrate all things space-related:
Print and Read
I have linked all these to the resources. Just click on any of the images.
Space Shuttle Escape Room
Have you tried an Escape Room yet? My students love them so much!
The Space Shuttle Escape Room is a favorite.
It begins with students examining a data table listing the shuttle missions. Students must arrange some events in chronological order.
Escaping just means the task is completed successfully.
The second task is to solve a riddle by completing math problems. The third task has students tracking the path of a shuttle on a USA map.
The Space Escape Room resource includes a STEM Challenge. Students will design and build a robot model.
The robot must have a purpose that will aid astronauts in outer space!
Here’s a perfect little STEM Challenge that your students will love!
Teams design a robot whose function must be to help astronauts in space. THe function must be something essential.
This is an easy-prep challenge with simple materials. Use things you have on hand!
You will also love the detailed teacher’s guide included in the resource.
Exploring Space Print and Read
This reading comprehension packet is all about space topics.
Students have 4 reading passages and a magazine-style page with several space articles.
Students also make use of nonfiction text features in the reading passages and the magazine page.
The reading passages for the Space Print and Read include the Challenger shuttle, Sally Ride, Bonnie Dunbar, and walking in space. The newspaper includes articles about stars, falling stars, light-years, and NASA.
These sets are ready to go- just print and read!
Flipper Booklets About Exploring Space
We love these little flipper books! The size of the finished booklet is 5 x 8 inches. They fit perfectly in a science folder or notebook. The Earth in Space booklet has 7 pages.
Students will be writing about the earth’s tilt, how day and night are determined, and the seasons, matching vocabulary, labeling the planets, completing a puzzle, and extra research is optional. We love the bright covers of these booklets and I also provide the cover in black/white.
The Sun and Planets Little Flipper is another great one to use while you are studying space.
Each page of the 10-page booklet features a planet and students fill in a data table about each. The sun is also included! I provided posters about the planets and the sun that students can use while they complete the pages.
TIP: We have learned that the pages should be completed before cutting them out. It is easier to color with a whole piece of paper.
TIP: I provided ‘cut lines’ around the flipbook pages. I advise students to cut between the cut line and the edge of the flipbook page. This keeps them from cutting too far!
Exploring Space Nonfiction Task Cards
The first sets like this task card set were made to satisfy a need in my classroom.
My third graders loved using a Time for Kids magazine. I loved it because of the nonfiction text features. We would label those on the pages of our magazines.
The only problem was the topics in the magazines did not always match what we were studying. So, I started creating my own magazine templates.
The Space set includes a four-page newspaper with many articles. There are 42 task cards about the text features and with comprehension questions. There are 12 open-ended task cards that have students drawing tables, writing paragraphs, or completing more research.
I hope you have found a resource that will help save you some time as you tackle the study of space!
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Our Favorite Space Books!