December 10, 2017 by WittyLibrarian
Program Title: Planet Explorers
Target Age Range: Grades 1-2 and Grades 3-4
Program Length: 60 minutes
Brief Description: Learn about planets, space, and how to be an astronaut!
Straws, two different widths
Optional: Small scale
Clear plastic ornaments
Weighted Objects, such as marbles and golf balls
Stickers, such as trees, ants, fish
Optional: Ice in plastic baggies, or reusable ice cubes.
Make planets. To do so, take the clear plastic ornaments and fill them with a selection of items. For some planets, use weighted items to give the planet heft (such as marbles or golf balls); add magnets to some planets, ice to others; create a variety of combinations, and wrap all contents up in tissue paper, so that they cannot be seen. On the outside of the plastic ornament, use hot glue and masking tape to both secure the planet closed, as well as to provide texture and terrain details (mountains and valleys). Cotton balls can be glued on to make clouds. Add stickers to indicate whether the planet supports life. If you use ice, be sure to keep those planets in the freezer until the program.
We presented this program for two different age groups; grades 1-3 and grades 3-4. The two programs shared the same main activity, but we structured different supplemental materials for each age group.
- Welcome and group brainstorm about planets and astronauts. NASA’s 2013 Guide to the Solar System was a good source for general information about space and the planets.
- Read Stars! Stars! Stars! by Bob Barner and Planets by Martha E.H. Rustad
- Explore planets
- Brainstorm/Draw life on the new planet
- Planet Coloring Sheet
- End of program
- Welcome and group brainstorms about astronauts and outerspace. As with the younger crowd, NASA’s 2013 Guide to the Solar System was a good source for planet information.
- Read Planets by Martha E.H. Rustad and If I Were an Astronaut by Eric Braun
- Watch videos about astronauts in space
4. Explore Planets
5. Make Rockets
6. End Program.
- Explore Planets
This project was inspired both by STAR_NET’s Strange New Planet Activity Guide as well as a hands-on presentation at ALA, High-impact STEM Events to Foster Collaboration. Children were group together in teams of three, and each given a planet to explore and compare, along with observation charts to record what they deduced about their planets. Younger kids used their hands to determine whether a planet was heavy or light, hot or cold; older kids had a scale they could weight their planet with. They were both given cardboard “telescopes” to observe their planets. Some planets were magnetized, and they used compasses to see whether the planet was polarized. See supplies for how the planets were made.
- Observe/Brainstorm life on the new planet
Younger kids were given blank paper and coloring supplies to draw what they think life on their planet would be like.
We used Buggyandbuddy.com’s Straw Rockets with Free Rocket Template, and explained how astronauts used rocket ships to get to space.
What we would do differently:
This program worked well as planned, and there were no hiccups along the way. For the younger kids, we might consider showing them videos of the astronauts in space, as the videos are fun and interesting. We would recommend seeking out different books; our book on astronaut life felt a bit out-dated.
Adaption for older/younger audience:
This program would not lend itself well to an age group younger or older than what it was already planned for. Younger kids would not have the patience to “explore” the tiny planets, and older kids would not find the activity very challenging.