At the very beginning of the school year, I showed my students a video taken from the International Space Station. Oftentimes, teachers will ask how I choose the inquiries that we embark upon. Most frequently, our inquiries come from my students’ interests and questions. While this short video was playing, my students were SILENT. If you teach kindergarten, you know that during the first few months of school that this is something in and of itself. As they watched the video, I could see the spark of interest in my students’ eyes. They were fascinated. I remember talking to a friend of mine about this potential inquiry and we discussed holding off on it until a bit later so that we could really dig deep into the subject matter. I’m so glad I waited. Not only are we learning a ton, but my students’ interest in this topic has grown tremendously. By holding off just a bit and devoting ample amount of exploration time, we are digging deep and the kids are LOVING it.
The day we turned our classroom into the International Space Station happened to be during our week of standardized testing. I knew that we were going to need a bit of a pick me up after testing for 3 days straight. On our last day of testing, we transformed our classroom.
My students got right to work playing. Some took on jobs working the computers for NASA.
Other students took on the job of becoming astronauts. They eagerly built their rocket ships and blasted off into space. Mission control was happy to guide them on their journey to the Moon.
Once they landed on the Moon, they created “missions” that they needed to accomplish.
This dramatic play center is STILL one of the favorites in my classroom. Every day students visit it and play together so nicely.
My students came up with a list of “wonders” and we are now going on three weeks of digging deeper into the concepts. One of the things that really intrigued them was what a star was made up of. They also wondered why we only see stars at night. To help my students understand the concept of day and night, we watched a few videos that explained the Earth’s rotation and then this fun illustrated video.
After we watched it, my students drew pictures of their favorite things that they can do during the day and then another picture of things that happen at night.
Another day they created a sequence of events craft that illustrates where the sun and moon are over the course of the day.
As an exploration center, I took out my constellation projector (that I inherited from a parent). We covered up one of our tables with a black sheet and the kids had a blast “star gazing.”
This center was the catalyst of a multitude of questions about stars, constellations, and the night sky. In fact, my students went to the library that afternoon and 8 of them came back with books on stars!
These videos helped us build schema, answer some of our questions, and inspire us to learn more!
My students were amazed to find out that stars could be different colors! To show what they were learning, we took out our liquid watercolors and oil pastel crayons, My young artists created paintings of space.
First they drew stars and details using the oil pastel crayons.
Then they painted over their drawings using the liquid watercolors.
I think they came out marvelous!
Another exploration center that has been a FAVORITE has been making constellations using a hammer, nails, and Dixie cups! The kids can not get enough of this. One child counted yesterday afternoon that she had made a total of 34 constellation cups throughout the course of the week. She proudly showed her mom Cassiopeia, The Big Dipper, and Orion along with other creative constellation patterns.
After the kids punched out their constellations, they went into our bathroom, shut the door, and used a flashlight to project their constellation(s) onto the dark walls.
One of the videos that we watched mentioned Rigel (one of the stars in the constellation Orion). My students were so inspired that I had parents emailing me to share the video with them and asking about it! My students asked if they could paint the stars so I set up this provocation. My students used the balloons to paint their favorite stars. They labeled and wrote about them after they painted them!
In this picture, one child is paining Rigel!
One of the questions that my students kept asking was what a star was. In order to help my students better understand what a star is, we completed a science “experiment.” We talked about how a star is made up of gases that are constantly moving. We took out a few mason jars and filled them with 3/4 vegetable oil and 1/4 water. We added about 10 drops of food coloring and then added Alka Seltzer to the jars.
As soon as the Alka Seltzer hit the jar, colorful spheres of color floated up and down in the jars. I related the movement of the spheres to the gases constantly moving in a star. (Look at how amazed my students were!!)
The kids noticed that “smoke” came out the top of the jar. We talked about just how our jar produced “smoke,” stars emit light and heat.
This science experiment really helped my students visualize the movement of the gases in stars and why stars emit light and heat.
We are loving this unit! Stay tuned for a blog post on some of the Moon activities we completed!!
If you are interested in these activities and many more, check out my “All About Space” pack on Teachers Pay Teachers! It is full of lesson plans, activities, posters, word cards, and more! You can get it here:
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