An Astronaut Themed Family School Unit Study for Morning Baskets
These activities are a part of a series of posts about Astronomy and Astronauts. This astronaut unit study is for a family-style morning basket time. Each weekly theme has activities for Primary (preschool to 2nd grade), Intermediate (3rd to 5th grade), and Secondary (6th grade and up). There are four weekly themes for this Astronomy and Astronauts unit study:
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Living Science Books
Mousetronaut by Astronaut Mark Kelly is a “mostly true” story of a mouse named Meteor. Meteor is selected to be an astronaut alongside some humans and takes a journey on the space shuttle Endeavor’s 2001 mission. This story emphasizes the value of hard work, courage, and having a purpose. And you can watch the author’s twin brother, astronaut Scott Kelly, read Mousetronaut from the ISS in StoryTime From Space! There’s also a nice afterword and bibliography with internet resources for older kids to extend their learning at the end of the book.
One Giant Leap by Robert Burleigh vividly describes the unity and hope of the American people as they watched Apollo 11 land on the moon. This picture book is one that your older kids will enjoy as well. There is another picture book by the same title, written by Don Brown, that is a biography of Neil Armstrong. It’s worth checking out also if your local library carries it.
Daring Dozen: The Twelve Who Walked on the Moon by Suzanne Slade is told from the perspective of the moon (using personification), who welcomes its visitors. This book honors the twelve men in Apollo Missions 11 to 17 who have walked on the moon. It also briefly explains why Apollo 13 didn’t land on the moon. There’s also nice photos of all the astronauts along with a timeline of the missions in the afterword that your older students will enjoy.
Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed tells of a young Mae Jemison who dreams of dancing in space. She grows up to become the first black woman astronaut and travels on the space shuttle Endeavor. She is an amazing role model as she is both a chemical engineer and a medical doctor, in addition, to being an astronaut.
Lego Women of NASA: Space Heroes by Hannah Dolan describes the life works of four women who have greatly contributed to NASA’s space program. Margaret Hamilton wrote the computer code for the Apollo missions. Sally Ride was the first American woman in space; she was a physicist and an engineer. Nancy Grace Roman is also known as the Mother of Hubble for her work with the Hubble Telescope. Last, but not least, Mae Jemison was the first black woman astronaut. This book is a DK Reader Level 1 In honor of these four pioneers in the space program, Lego has created a set with mini-figures of each woman that comes with the Hubble telescope, a computer, and a space shuttle as part of their Lego Ideas line.
Astronaut: Living in Space by Kate Hayden describes what an astronaut’s life in space is like on a daily basis. This book is a DK Reader Level 2.
Spacebusters: The Race to the Moon by Phillip Wilkinson uses NASA’s photographs as a framework for the history of the space program from Apollo to the space shuttles. This book is a DK Reader Level 3.
Space Heroes: Amazing Astronauts by Buckley and Jenner describes the missions of Yuri Gagarin (the first man in space) and Alan Shepard (the first American in space) as well as a general overview of the Apollo and space shuttle astronauts. This book is a DK Reader Level 3.
Learn about the first moon walk during Apollo 11’s mission in this episode of Things You Want to Know from Nat Geo Kids.
Join Jesse and Squeaks to learn how to become an astronaut as well as what astronauts do in their jobs in this episode of SciShow Kids.
Gross and Fine Motor
Fine Motor: Practice writing like an astronaut. Tape a piece of paper to the underneath side of a table. Lay underneath the table and draw on the paper. Try using different writing utensils like felt tip pens, ballpoint pens, crayons, and pencils. Which ones work best? There’s no gravity in space, so writing upside down on Earth is similar to writing in space because the ink doesn’t flow through a ballpoint pen without gravity.
Gross Motor: Frisbees were first marketed as Flying Saucers in response to the Roswell sightings and subsequent UFO hysteria. Later, they were re-named “Pluto Platters” before finally landing on their new name “Frisbee” when the Wham-O company bought the rights. Play frisbee in the yard with a family member or organize a game of Ultimate Frisbee with some homeschool friends.
English Language Arts
Grammar: Read A Trip into Space by Lori Haskins Houran and talk about all of the words that end with -ing. Ask your kids if they know what part of speech -ing words are. Have them act out each of the -ing words in the book for some bonus gross motor skill practice!
Phonemic Awareness: Use alliteration to name your spacecraft. Alliteration is an element that an author uses to focus the reader’s attention by using the same beginning letter in a series of words, such as the fire-fighting ferret, or the jackrabbit joyfully jumped. Use this spaceship worksheet from the Free Resource Library for extra
Engineering: Let your kids loose with the recycle bin to create a control panel for their spacecraft. If you started a rocket ship with last week’s bonus content (free access for subscribers), just add to the inside. Collect old CDs, maybe a junk computer motherboard or old keyboard to use. Toys like Magnadoodles, toddler busy boxes and Duplos work really well too. We like to use 3M Command picture hanging strips (often available at the dollar store) for items that we don’t want to ruin with glue or duct tape.
Technology: Space travel and exploration naturally leads to new inventions in order to solve the unique dilemmas of space. Watch this short video from NASA to learn what is an engineer and what an engineer does.
Try some new food textures and explore the technology of
Our family loves the devotional book Indescribable: 100 Devotions about 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, and 140-141.
Family schooling naturally has an
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