Sunday, December 30, 2012

Space Unit

"The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." Psalm 19.1

Our 2nd unit of the year focused on several aspects of astronomy.
Here are some pictures, videos and notes capturing some of what we spent our time doing...

The following is a video I got from NASA.  While I don't agree with all their origin beliefs, the filming was fascinating and we loved seeing the sun in new ways.
Before O Boy got his REAL Lego shuttle, he made a very complete model all his own out of Duplos. 
The 2 videos above and one below feature our attempts to make craters out of rocks and cookies.  It was an experiment with minimal success.

Each week we did some writing focused on some aspect of what we were learning.
After reading about the Challenger O Boy chose a picture of the crew to write about.  Here is his little report that he wrote with some spelling help from me.

Here is O Boy's write up after learning about some of the planets.  Mars has a huge point on it because he learned that the largest volcano in the solar system is on Mars.
These are the facts that O Boy wanted to record after learning about the sun.  There were some very unexpected learning connections between our previous study on the earth/minerals and our study of space that he picked up on immediately.
Mr. T's facts about stars.  His pictures of the stars shining brightly were some of the first objects I'd seen him draw independently that really had a good connection to the actual object!
O Boy's facts about the stars.  To see all the mini-facts he embedded into his drawing, you'll have to click on the picture.

Mr. T's facts about the sun.  This I had him write out independently, to see which of the sounds he could pick out on his own.  I like the rocket ship headed to the sun!

One of the projects we spent quite a bit of time on were our solar system boards.  We started out by painting pieces of cardboard totally black.  Then, after studying about each part of our solar system, we added that part onto the board.

First, we added stars.  This is a great fine motor activity, requiring a good pincer grasp to hold the puff ball.  We also used pencil erasers dipped in paint to make smaller stars.  O Boy even decided to dot out some constellations (one real, one imaginary) onto his board.
Next, we made suns.  I had them swirl red, yellow and orange paint together on a plate, then smush all the colors down and together with a second plate.  Then we removed the second plate to reveal a beautiful swirled sun.  Each one turned out completely different!
Little Sweetie's final board.  A friend in town gave us some beautiful stickers to add to our boards.  I don't think she ever really got around to adding any planets!

Mr. T's board

Mr. T's board

Mr. T's board

O Boy's board

O Boy's board

O Boy's board

Mr. T's board with labels.

O Boy's board with the Clocktower Constellation on the bottom and all his labeled planets.  He also added "the Goldilocks zone," something he learned about while watching The Privileged Planet.

A special part of this unit for O Boy was the space shuttle Lego set I bought for him to build.  Initially, we all worked on it a bit but he quickly took over.  Since then he's taken it apart and put it back together again completely several times. !

We were truly thankful for a very unusual clear period of weather during parts of this unit.  This made star gazing easy and fun!  Our kids got very familiar with some of the most common constellations and now have no trouble picking at least a few out of the night sky.  One of the best things we did for Mr. T and the Little Sweetie was to have each child pick "their own" constellation.  They immediately memorized and began searching for that constellation each time we went star gazing.  Now, the Little Sweetie sort of "owns" the Queen (Andromeda) and Mr. T looks right away for the Big Dipper!  O Boy was able to fine several constellations with me, so I'm not sure he narrowed his favorites list down to one.
The website is a great site to help you get started star gazing with kids.

The following pictures I used to teach them their first 3 constellations:
I had them use puff balls and connect the dots with chalk to begin getting a feeling for how random dots in the sky can be connected to make a picture.  After doing this they could repeat the activity with toothpicks and marshmallows.  Both these ideas I found online on some excellent blogs.

Big Dipper card

Mr. T making the Big Dipper

Mr. T's Big Dipper (above and below)  Both activities were very challenging for him.

Little Sweetie's "Queen"

Another set of cards that had a very clear layout of some of the most basic constellations.

This was another activity I'd seen on a blog, so I thought we'd try it.  I had the boys hammer (which they love to do) the patterns of some of the most basic constellations.  Then we cut those discs out, put them on the end of a paper towel tube and shined a light through it to see the constellation appear on the wall.  There was very little enthusiasm for this activity beyond the hammering, so we didn't spend more than a few minutes on it.  More fun to look for the real thing outside!

Several days during our unit the boys took turns making space themed snacks.  Here is Mr. T with his creation of the little space alien Tyro we were reading about with a cheese star thrown in just because he likes cheese.

I think this is the giant space suit that Tyro fell to earth wearing.

On this day we made sun pudding.

First, swirl on some vanilla pudding

Then, add some food coloring and surround the whole thing with bananas!  Instant sun!


We greatly appreciated many things from the astronomy kit we borrowed from our main homeschool district office in Juneau.  It came packed with all sorts of helpful and fun items, some of which you see here.  We put up these posters all around our living room, then added their writings (which are posted above) below the part of the solar system they described.

This great solar system puzzle is HUGE!  It sort of drove O Boy crazy that Pluto was still on the puzzle after he learned it's been demoted to Dwarf Planet status.

Another game borrowed from friends.  It's a bit like chutes and ladders.  Great for building counting skills while at the same time teaching basic facts about the solar system.

Space maze

There were so many great videos on this topic to watch.  Even though I don't agree with all of Bill Nye's theories on the origin of the universe, his videos are still full of excellent info and tons of fun.
In addition to the videos listed below, we also watched many excellent clips on youtube on the Mars missions, the International Space Station and other topics.
Here is one of our clips on traveling to Mars: Mars clip
Here are a few of the videos we enjoyed during this unit:

Again, far too many excellent books to read on this topic in one short unit!  Here are some of our favorites.

This is my favorite book on the constellations.  Who knew the Curious George guy knew so much about space?

Two favorite space jokes:
Why don't spacemen ever get thirsty?  Because they have the Big Dipper.
What do you call a mis-behaving spaceman?  An astro-naughty!

I stumbled across this read-aloud in an anthology book I have and it turned out to be such a fun book to read!  There is definitely suspense, but the alien involved is so tiny and cute that any fear factor is really diminished.  The main characters are young boys, which also added to the appeal for my family.  It's a great exploration of friendship and caring for others despite your perceptions of what they might be like.