Constellation Engineers

20180711_102453Project-based learning allows students to control the direction and pace of their learning.

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Activities that promote investigation, critical thinking, and hands-on subject matter are also central to project-based learning.

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These project-based activities focus on basic principles of physics, structural, and mechanical engineering.

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By using a variety of materials to construct constellations, your little one is creating a physical model to help them gain a greater understanding of the natural world. To initiate your little astronomer into the realm of the constellations, we read a book about people who lived long ago.

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These people did not have telescopes and computers to tell them about the stars they saw in the sky, and so they created images based on the patterns they perceived.

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To apply our understanding of these fascinating images, we created the Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, and Andromeda constellations using a variety of materials.

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Our first project consisted of lacing cards and perler beads, and the second contained a combination of rocks and chalk.

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Space Dust Sensory Table

Sensory activities provide children with another meaningful avenue for learning.

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Sensory tables rotated regularly with wondrous materials are worthwhile investments for hours of  learning, exploring, and fun.

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This project activated the senses to include some of our younger astronauts into our voyages through the cosmos.

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Using dyed salt as our space dust, small Earth shaped balls, confetti stars, jars, and space toys, we engaged our hands and hearts to learn more about outer space!

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Science concepts, such as cause and effect (what happens when materials are combined) and gravity (space dust comes down the funnel, not up) were explored throughout this activity.

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Students also had the opportunity to work on their problem-solving and decision-making skills as they determined how to manipulate and use the materials.

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Lastly, this activity provided an open-ended opportunity for your little one to enjoy the process rather than the product – how she used the space dust was much more important than what she made.

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Using creative thinking skills and expressing one’s creativity are important self-esteem builders.

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Moon Rock Walk

Children imitate what they see and hear through their play.

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Because astronomy is a multifaceted subject, there are so many new words and actions to remember!

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This can be confusing to the young learner, and so creative learning experiences can help them integrate all of this new information.

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For this activity, we combined dramatic and sensory play with science to collect moon rocks from our closest planetary neighbor.

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A good way to recall and reflect on these new experiences is to have your little ones re-create the actions and sounds that were meaningful to them.

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Using rocks and flour as our moon, paper plates as our helmets, dish gloves, and plastic bottles as our oxygen tanks, we not only collected moon rocks from the surface of the moon, but analyzed them in our “lab”.

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These two different “situations” enabled your budding astronaut to practice new vocabulary, problem solve with a variety of materials, and role play with their friends!

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Big, Bigger, Biggest

Preschool is an important time for young children to begin developing the skills needed to describe their experiences.  Beyond a strong vocabulary, children can grow to observe, remember, and give an independent account of their thoughts. To help your little ones grow in their descriptive abilities, we talked about the size of the planets and their relation to one another. Using Playdoh, and a diagram of the eight planets, we discussed words such as big, large, heavy, small and their associated forms (bigger, larger, heavier, smaller). By manipulating the Playdoh into spherical shapes, students were able to experience a range of sensations that provided a context for them to clearly distinguish sensory stimuli. This project also provided the opportunity to reinforce the different forms of these descriptive words so they could narrate the physical act of what they were doing.

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Asteroid Dig

The Asteroid Belt is a region between the inner planets and outer planets where thousands of asteroids are found orbiting around the sun. We spent a significant portion of our week discussing asteroids and what they mean to us as Earthlings.

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Following a lengthy discussion on the various inhabitants of the asteroid belt, we decided to dig for our own!

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To incorporate multiple objectives, students were encourage to “dig” for their asteroids and then place them onto a pre-made letter A. Doing so encouraged the practice of fine motor  skills, hand eye coordination, and phonemic awareness.

 

Impact Craters

Impact craters are caused when an impactor collides with a planet or moon. A crater’s size and features depend on the mass, velocity, and angle of the incoming impactor.

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This fascinating phenomenon provides insight into the age and geology of a planet’s surface. For this activity, students created impact craters with rocks, and then examined the associated features.

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They then observed images of lunar craters and explored how mass, shape, and velocity affected the size of the crater.

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As a result, your child learned about constructing models, which can be tools for understanding the natural world.

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They also experimented with cause and effect, and practiced their critical thinking skills!

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Asteroid Science

Asteroids can be thought of as minor planets. They are made up of most of the same stuff as planets, but are much smaller. The four largest known are spherical, or ball-shaped, like the Earth, and have diameters between 100 and 500 miles.

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To introduce the asteroid to your budding cosmologist, students learned a few important facts about asteroids.  They learned that asteroids are space rocks that are composed of rock, metals, and other elements.

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There are a host of asteroids that vary in their composition and size, and we created a few of them in our class! Our first endeavor was the siliceous asteroid.  These asteroids are comprised of silicate, nickel, and iron. Using moon sand, and rocks, we replicated this most exciting planetoid.

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The second asteroid we created was the carbonaceous asteroid. This asteroid is made up of clay and silcate rocks. To construct this type of asteroid, we used clay and rocks.

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This activity accessed several developmental areas, including spatial reasoning, technical problem solving, and critical thinking skills.  How did they do this? First, as they combined materials, they visualized the most beneficial means to navigate space. Then they had to evaluate new information by breaking it into meaningful components. Finally, they had to convert their understanding of an idea into a physical model.

Countdown to the Number Line

Hands-on activities are essential in teaching math concepts to the preschool learner. Number line activities will give your preschoolers a concrete way to learn about numbers and counting. When teaching math skills to preschool children, it is important to present ideas in a variety of ways to help students really understand a concept.

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For this activity, your little one was introduced to the number line by “being” the number line. Students were told that they could use number lines to help with counting, comparing numbers, adding, and other math skills.  Numbers were randomly passed out to each student. I then called out each number, one at a time, and directed the child with that number to stand in a particular place in line along our number “string”.  At the end, we reflected on the number line we had just created. Students were asked questions such as, What do you notice about it? Are the numbers in order? Where is the smallest number? As your little ones learn more and more about the number line, they can use it to solve problems that become increasingly more complex.

Mission Control

Space: Planets, stars, the moon, “To Infinity and Beyond”!

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This theme is endless in possible activities and adventures your preschoolers can participate in!

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Dramatic play can take place anywhere children are – their imaginations can soar far, so we decided to replicate Mission Control!

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Using real computers, phones, and toy gadgets, we engaged in sending several missions to the moon, Mars, and even the asteroid belt!

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In addition to accessing our ability to visualize the world of NASA, this activity enabled us to access our problem solving skills, enhance our language development, and learn to read and give linguistic cues. Please enjoy!

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Creating the International Space Station

The International Space Station is the largest, most complex international science project in history.  The permanently crewed orbital laboratory enables scientific research supporting innovation on Earth and future deep space exploration.

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For this activity, students were introduced to the International Space Station, with information about its structure, operation, and key experiments. Before starting, the children engaged one another with questions such as: What do you think it is like to live in space? Would you float instead of walk? How would you sleep? What would you eat? This project was designed to answer these questions, and many more.

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Using foil-covered blocks, astronaut figurines, and plastic space toys, we created our version of the International Space Station. As a result, students acquired new vocabulary as they experimented with visual perception, spatial orientation, and coordination.