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Astronaut Unit Study for Middle & High School Students

A Family School Astronaut Unit Study for Morning Baskets and Family-Style Homeschooling

In this Astronauts Unit Study, your students will

  • Create a Galaxy painting for their room
  • Write a short biography for social media as though they are an astronaut
  • Find out what NASA has learned from its mistakes
  • Discover what astronaut Chris Hadfield did when he discovered a live snake while piloting

This astronaut unit study is for family-style homeschooling and is part 4 of 4 of a series of posts about Astronomy and Astronauts. Each weekly theme has activities for Early Learners (preschool to 2nd grade), Upper Elementary (3rd to 5th grade), and Middle to High School (6th grade and up). There are four weekly themes for this Astronomy and Astronauts unit study:

Moon and Stars: Early Learners, Upper Elementary, Middle to High School

Space and Planets: Early Learners, Upper Elementary, Middle to High School

Rockets and Spacecraft: Early Learners, Upper Elementary, Middle to High School

Astronauts: Early Learners, Upper Elementary, Middle to High School

Astronauts English Language Arts

Living Books

Read C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength, the third book in Lewis’ space trilogy. The author of Narnia based the hero of this book, Dr. Ransom, on his friend J.R.R. Tolkien. Dr. Ransom battles an evil organization that is trying to take over Europe. This third installment of the series has a similar dystopian theme as Orwell’s 1984.

If you have younger students and would like for everyone to be on the same page, so to speak, have your secondary students read A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle instead of the Lewis selection. This book is the third book in the Time Quintet series. The L’Engle series would also be an easier read for middle schoolers than the Lewis series.

Creative Writing

Imagine you are an astronaut and need to write a short biography for your social media page. Aim for 400 to 500 words and check your work with Grammarly.

Or, alternatively, have your student create an astronaut’s journal, using these actual journals by astronauts as an example.

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    Writing & Research

    Use the free printables from Homeschool Helper Online to notebook details your student has learned about these astronauts, engineers, and astronomers: Scott Kelly, Mae Jemison, Alan Shepard, Neil Armstrong, Sally Ride, Mark Kelly, Nancy Grace Roman, and Buzz Aldrin

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    STEAM

    Science

    Download the free Kennedy Launch Academy Simulation System (KLASS) developed by NASA. The program has over 40 hours of curriculum and you can pick and choose which parts (or all) that you want to use with your children. There are 3 main simulation roles from which to choose: biomedical, engine/external tank, and weather. Geared for 6th to 12th grades, it also has career exploration tasks.

    Exploring Space by Martin Jenkins is a comprehensive look at the history of astronomy and space exploration. Use this or a similar title, such as The Young Oxford Book of Astronomy by Simon and Jaqueline Mitton, as your main spine book for your secondary students for the whole four-week unit.

    This week, read Surviving in Space, Crowded Skies and Where Do We Go From Here? in Exploring Space or The Galaxies and The Universe in the Young Oxford text.

    Technology

    Learn about four of the most important things that the Apollo 11 lunar landing taught us (including how Einstein was right!) in this SciShow Space Episode. You may want to visit the SciShow Space page and watch more of their instructional, yet entertaining videos. SciShow Space is produced by the same producers as the wildly popular Crash Course series and both are marketed to a middle and high school audience. They do occasionally mention their Old Earth worldview, which gives you an opportunity to talk to your student about your personal beliefs if they differ.

    If you were in a public school in 1986, you probably witnessed (and still remember the horror) the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. It was later determined that it was too cold that day for the 0-rings to properly function. Watch this episode of SciShow Space to see what NASA learned (and how the agency was subsequently restructured) as a result of the Challenger and Columbia disasters.

    Engineering

    Take a look at NASA’s engineering solution to keep the Gemini astronauts safe in case they needed to self-abort the mission: ejection seats. Learn why that was a really BAD idea in this episode of Facepalm from the Everyday Astronaut.

    Design a way for astronauts to exercise without gravity in this activity from Discover Engineering.

    Find out why Neil Armstrong is proud to be a “nerdy engineer” in this video from PhDcomics.

    Arts

    Galaxy paintings are a popular art choice for teen rooms. Create one with acrylics with these directions from Step by Step Painting or use watercolors and follow the directions in this video from Studio of MM.

    If you have Sci-Fi fans at your house, you will enjoy looking at Robert T McCall’s collection of paintings. He was an artist for NASA as well as painting the movie posters for 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek the movie. Be sure to look at the New Dawn collection too for amazing paintings of the Apollo astronauts.

    Math

    What determines how long the different measurements of time are? Learn how the measurement of time relates to the rotation of the Earth in this video from NASA’s Real World Mathematics.

    Astronauts History

    If you have younger students reading Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca, have your older students read the “Sources” and “One Giant Leap” sections at the back of the book for some history of the astronaut’s mission.

    An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield is not just an autobiography; it’s also a motivational manual of entertaining life lessons. For example, one day he encountered a live snake while flying a plane. Hadfield also describes overcoming obstacles and setbacks during his training to be an astronaut. My teenager really enjoyed this book and when I asked him about it, he replied, “It really is like it says on the front of the book: ‘What going to space taught me about ingenuity, determination, and being prepared for anything.’ “

    Astronauts Devotions

    Our family loves the devotional book Indescribable: 100 DevotionsvAbout God and Science by Louie Giglio! These five-minute devotions are filled with wondrous facts about God’s amazing creation.

    The following devotions match up nicely with this week’s astronaut study: pages

    • 10-11
    • 20-21
    • 44-45
    • 140-141

    If your secondary student is the youngest or prefers to do his or her own devotions, use these Bible verses to journal or create SOAP notes.

    • Psalm 5:3
    • Genesis 1:3
    • Romans 8:1
    • 2 Cor 4:7

    More Ideas

    Family schooling naturally has an overlap between learner’s abilities. That’s why morning baskets and unit studies work so well for homeschool families with more than one kiddo! Therefore, there may be activities at another level of this astronaut unit that will benefit your family even if you don’t have any students working at that level. Check them out below:

    Astronauts: Early Learners, Upper Elementary

    Be sure to follow my Pinterest board Astronomy and Astronauts for more great ideas for your Astronaut unit!

    Be sure to pin this post so you can refer back to it during your Astronomy and Astronauts study.

    Astronaut unit study

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