Planet Sequencing

Although the concept of planet order is an abstract one for young learners to understand, the ability to sequence objects is not. For this activity, we placed the eight planets in order, starting with the sun. To learn the names of each planet, we sang a song during circle time that we practiced every day for a week.

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We sang to the tune of Skip to My Lou, and the lyrics involved the words: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars. Jupiter, Saturn, among the stars. Uranus, and Neptune, too. Spin around the sun it’s true. Spinning, spinning around the sun. Spinning, spinning, everyone. The Earth is ours, it’s number three. It’s atmosphere is right for me. In addition to this, we created planet Earths out of play dough and played various games during circle time, where each student took turns being the sun, and the planets that rotated around him/her. It was definitely a week of fun and learning!

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Rocket Materials

Whens somebody mentions construction play, you may think of children being creative. Designing their own structures. Making something new.

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That sort of play is beneficial and exciting for development.

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It is known among child development professionals that block play may foster a wide range of abilities, including motor skills, spatial skills, language skills, and divergent thinking.

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But not all play is free-wheeling. There is another way to have fun with construction toys, and it might help children develop a special package of skills.

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It is called structured block play, and it’s what happens when children try to recreate a construction by consulting a model or blueprint. Kids must analyze what they see, perceive the parts that make up the whole, and figure out how the parts relate to each other.

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To be really successful, kids also need to think quantitatively, and be able to rotate geometric shapes in the mind’s eye. To apply these STEM skills to our week of rockets, we created rockets out of a variety of materials.

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We began with silver-painted Legos, moved on with silver painted cardboard tubes, and finished with creating rockets out of silver styrofoam.

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Before creating this magnificent machines, we looked at several pictures of rockets (primarily those used by NASA). Some of these included the Improved Orion, the Black Bryant VB/VC, the Terrier-Malemute, and the Terrier-Oriole. We also learned about how rockets take off in stages. Lastly, we looked at various blueprints of the different machines, making whichever one we wanted to. This was a week-long project, as we experimented with different materials.

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Constellation Play Dough

During our week of “stars”, we learned all about constellations.

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We made them with a variety of materials, we played gross motor games aimed at teaching the major constellations (such as Orion and Andromeda), and finally, we used play dough!

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For this activity, students added confetti stars to black play dough.

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They then used plastic knives to cut their dough into a variety of shapes.

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Following this, they named their constellation.

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Finally, students compared their names (most of which were silly) to their friends!

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Lunar Rover Vehicles

After an amazingly brief seventeen months of designing and testing, the Lunar Rover or “Moon Buggy” was used from 1971-1972 as a key component for missions fifteen through seventeen of the Apollo program.

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Created primarily to extend the range of terrain that the two Apollo crew members could explore during their stay on the Moon’s surface, four fully space worthy lunar rovers along with seven test models were built in preparations for these J-Missions.

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The fourth sibling from the LRV family, however, never had the opportunity to enter space, as after the announced dissolution of the Apollo program, it was relegated to providing spare parts for the other rovers. To recreate this fascinating machine, we used aluminum foil covered blocks. Armed only with a toy astronaut and about five blocks each, students created their version of the Lunar Rover!

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Glittery Mermaid Letters

Writing is a skill that most people use every single day, whether it be writing a note to a friend or writing a check to a utility company. Even in the age of technology, the written word is still everywhere. But how do you teach a young child the proper way to write? The first step is simple… pre-writing. Pre-writing is learning the skills necessary to begin writing.

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Pre-writing is an important step because it teaches children the correct way to hold a pencil, how to use a good, firm grip, and emphasizes the use of fine motor skills. Pre-writing also helps children with the development of hand/eye coordination, learn that words go left to right, and that lines of writing go top to bottom on a page. For this activity, we traced the letter M into trays full of glitter. Students were first instructed to trace a pre-made letter, and then were guided to create their own! Although it was much more fun to create mountains out of the glitter, we are very proud of some of the magnificent letters we created!

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Beaded Horns

Manipulatives increase strength and coordination in the small hand and finger muscles. For this activity, we added beads to a craft stick (placed into play dough) that we deemed, our “Unicorn Horns”.

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Picking up the bead and manipulating it in your child’s hand until it was pinched between their thumb and forefinger, involved translation, shift and rotation movements of the bead within the hand. This promoted the tripod grasp.

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Maneuvering the beads from their hands fostered visual discrimination as your budding writer selected the pattern that fit their mental image of what a unicorn horn should look like. Lastly, this activity was self-correcting, which encouraged creative thinking, problem solving skills, and spatial reasoning.

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