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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Sun in a Bottle

No space unit would be complete without some serious talk about the sun. It is the center of our solar system, after all!

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The first concept that students were introduced to was that the sun is not just a big ball of fire in the sky, but is actually composed of swirling gases. These gases are called plasma.

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To illustrate this point, we created a sun in a bottle!

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To do this, we used an empty bottle, vegetable oil, food coloring, glitter, a funnel, and water.

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We first filled the bottle halfway up with water.

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We then mixed the red and yellow food coloring with the water and filled the bottle the rest of the way up.

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Everyone marveled at the water and oil separating within the bottle. This activity fulfilled several developmental goals. First, by creating a a sun in a bottle, your little ones created a representation of the sun, which answered spatial and relational questions between objects in the natural world. Secondly, by adding oil and water, and observing its similarities to plasma, students were able to think critically and logically to make relationships between concept of plasma and explanation of how it works. Lastly, by narrating their results, students exchanged dialogue with their friends and were able to apply their understanding of new vocabulary.

 

Constellation Engineers

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

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