When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Chances are, you said an astronaut. Space is fascinating to kids and adults alike, and it’s a great way to introduce kids to science, technology, engineering and math – better known as STEM.
While the space world is constantly developing new technology and scheduling new missions, kids and families here on Earth can partake in space-related activities to get a taste of the STEM world.
There are lots of space activities kids and families can do. NASA’s website (nasa.gov/stem) has a whole list for kids in kindergarten through 12. Here’s a few to try.
Make Asteroids You Can Eat:
• Potatoes – enough to make 4 to 8 cups of mashed potatoes. You can use frozen mashed potatoes or you can use fresh mashed potatoes (takes about 5 pounds to make 6 cups of mashed potatoes). Or you can use instant mashed potatoes. (Just don’t make them too soft.)
• 1 cup grated cheddar (or other kind) cheese
• 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of butter or margarine
• Salt and pepper, as you like it
• Extra butter or margarine to grease the cookie sheet and, if you like, to melt over the hot asteroids before you eat them
Depending on how you make your mashed potatoes,
you might need a pot and a potato masher or electric mixer
Mixing bowl and spoon
Oven mitt or pot holders
1. Turn on your oven to 375° Fahrenheit
2. Take a little slice of the butter or margarine and rub it evenly on the cookie sheet so the asteroids won’t stick. (You might want to use a paper towel for this so your fingers don’t get all messy—yet!)
3. Make the mashed potatoes. Make a lot (8 cups) or a little (4 cups).
4. Add the cheese (if you want), butter, salt and pepper to the potatoes and mix well. The mixture should stick together. If it’s too dry, add a little milk. If it’s too moist, add a little flour (start with 2 tablespoons).
5. Take a handful of potatoes (about 1/2 cup or more) and shape it into your own idea of an interesting asteroid shape. Use your fingers to poke dents in it for craters.
6. Set the asteroid on the greased cookie sheet.
7. Use all the potatoes to make asteroids. (If you have lots of asteroids, you may need another cookie sheet. Or bake the first ones, then re-grease the cookie sheet and make some more).
8. Put the cookie sheet full of asteroids in the hot oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are brown. Using the hot pads or oven mitt, remove the cookie sheet from the oven, and using the large spoon, transfer the asteroids to a serving plate.
What you need:
• Clear school glue
• 1 teaspoon of borax
• Red and blue food coloring
• Two bowls
• Wax Paper
• Measuring Cups – 1/2 cup and 1 cup
1. In one bowl, mix 1/2 cup of glue with 1/2 cup of water. Stir it together; it will mix nicely.
2. Add food coloring to the glue and water mixture. We used 6 drops of blue and 3 drops of red to get a nice, dark purple color.
3. In the other bowl, mix 1 teaspoon of borax with 1 cup of lukewarm water.
4. Stir until the borax is dissolved. This takes a while, so you have to be patient. If you skip this step, your slime will not come together very well.
5. Stir, stir, stir, until you don’t feel the crunch of the solid bits of borax on the bottom. The water will start to look a little cloudy.
6. Add the purple glue mixture to your borax water, stirring slowly as you pour it.
7. You’ll see the slime start to form. Stir as much as you can. Use your hands to get in there and work it around.
8. Take your glob of slime out of the bowl and put it on your wax paper. It’s okay if there is some water left behind.
9. It’s time to add some glitter galaxies! Flatten out your slime and spread glitter over the top. You can use any color or combination of colors, but lighter ones will work best because they will stand out against the dark purple.
10. Fold your slime in half to seal in the glitter. Then press it out and fold it over again.
11. Keep pressing and folding and watch as the glitter spreads throughout your slime.
12. Play with your handheld universe and watch it stretch and expand.
Take your future astronaut to the Nasa Glenn Visitor Center at the Great Lakes Science Center.
Here, your kids can build a high-powered paper rocket and launch it using an air compressor. They can touch a real rocket engine and see how the parts move, how it moves fuel from the fuel chamber, and how it propels thrust out of the engine. Also, see real spacesuits that were used by astronauts and learn how they eat, sleep, live and work on the International Space Station.
“The Great Lakes Science Center is one of only 11 official NASA visitor centers in the country and the only one that’s in this region in this part of the country,” says JonDarr Bradshaw, a former NASA educator and currently with the Great Lakes Science Center STEM Education team in Cleveland. “Where else can you come and see such extraordinary things? We have amazing videos, photographs, models and movies. We have artifacts that have actually floated in space and we even have an Apollo command module that spent nearly two months in space that flew back in 1973 on the Skylab 2 mission. You can reach out and touch history and that is so cool.” Visit greatscience.com
What’s New in Space: Fun Facts to Share (with activity ideas to try)
Do you know what’s happening with the recent space developments? JonDarr Bradshaw, a former NASA educator and currently with the Great Lakes Science Center STEM Education team in Cleveland shares with us some fun facts to help your kids learn. Also, activities to try.
FACT: The Artemis 1 mission: NASA’s Artemis 1 mission launched on Nov. 16 on a test flight to return astronauts to the moon. Artemis 1 is the first test flight of NASA’s new Space Launch System mega rocket and the Orion spacecraft. Artemis 1 splashed down on Dec. 11. The spacecraft will be traveling at around 25,000 miles an hour.
“The most important test is reentering the Earth’s atmosphere,” Bradshaw says. “With the successful completion of this test, we will refurbish that spacecraft and get it ready to carry our first astronauts back to the moon in more than 50 years.”
ACTIVITY IDEAS: Explore the 1969 moon landing with your kids. Re-create a moon landing, read books about Astronaut Neil Armstrong or draw photos of the moon’s surface.
FACT: On January 18, 2022 astronauts were selected to go to the moon and have already begun their training. This is the most diverse group of astronauts selected ever, as half of them are people of color, and half of them are women.
ACTIVITY IDEAS: Have a pretend astronaut training session and discuss what they do and wear. Read books about famous woman astronauts or people of color.
FACT: Currently, six astronauts are living at the International Space Station and crew rotation is expected around February. SpaceX, one of NASA’s commercial partners, will be launching the Crew-6 mission and there will be four astronauts on this mission, which is scheduled to launch February 19.
SpaceX Crew-6 is planned to be the sixth crewed operational NASA Commercial Crew flight of a Crew Dragon spacecraft, and the tenth overall crewed orbital flight.
ACTIVITY IDEAS: Watch movies about living in space. Watch previous launches and discuss what astronauts do in space. Define gravity and how it impacts the crew. Re-create a space launch with supplies at-home.