Our Strategy Share series features innovative ideas, projects, and approaches from our community of educators. This post was written by educator Kimi Waite.
In December 2017, I was looking out the window up at the night sky while I was on the airport shuttle to Los Angeles International Airport when something strange suddenly caught my eye. I saw a bright glowing light, and then suddenly an umbrella-like plume formed. The plume had a long tail at its end as it traveled through the night sky. My eyes grew wide and my mouth literally fell open! I have explored all around the world, but this was the strangest thing I had ever seen! I soon discovered that people all over Southern California had seen the same, strange phenomenon and were equally as perplexed and amazed as I was by the extraterrestrial-like glow. Though the glow captured my imagination with theories of extraterrestrial sightings, it was actually a SpaceX launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Witnessing this awe-inspiring launch ignited my curiosity and motivated me to seek out opportunities to bring space exploration to young space explorers.
This year, World Space Week is October 4–10. Here are some topics and resources to excite your students about space exploration:
Connect with NASA in Your Local Community:
- If you’re a space enthusiast and if you want to bring the universe to your students, sign up to get information through NASA social media! NASA Social events include in-person events at space centers and provide opportunities for social media users to share information about NASA missions, people, and programs. Through NASA Social, I attended the Space X CRS 18 resupply launch to the International Space Station and press briefing at Kennedy Space Center. Experiencing space exploration in-person completely changed my perspective.
- Find a NASA Center in your area or region for a public tour or a class field trip. I toured the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), saw engineers building the Mars 2020 rover, and brought back pictures for my students.
- Write letters to the engineers at the closest NASA center. My class wrote letters to the NASA JPL engineers about our love of the Curiosity rover, and we received a thank you note with goody bag containing posters and NASA stickers in return!
- Attend an event in your region through NASA’s Solar System Ambassador Program and connect with local space enthusiasts in your community.
Ideas to Bring Current Space Exploration Events in Your Classroom:
- Livestream space exploration events or watch recordings through NASA Television. My class watched the livestream of the Insight landing.
- Have students connect with future space K-12 space explorers by entering the Name the Rover Contest to name the next rover headed to Mars in 2020.
- Connect with space explorers in National Geographic’s Explorer Classrooms and Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants virtual classrooms. There’s usually a space exploration theme in November.
- Send your school to Mars! Add your school name or school mascot name in the Send Your Name to Mars and get a souvenir boarding pass to the Red Planet to share with your students.
Lesson Plan Resources:
- Bring learning resources about the Mars 2020 mission into your class with these lesson plan ideas.
- Integrate technology by using some of NASA’s apps for smartphones, tablets, and digital media players. A class favorite was the NASA Selfies app so we could become space explorers.
- Connect with the International Space Station to follow missions and stay updated with progress on experiments with the ISS National Laboratory website.
- Find space exploration resources in the online National Geographic Education resource library.
Let’s empower our students with the tools to not only explore the world but to explore the universe! It’s an exciting time for space exploration, and the next great astronaut, engineer, writer or collaborator could be sitting in your class.
Kimi Waite is a California-based educator-explorer who integrates engineering and conservation in her curricula and teaching strategies. She is passionate about inspiring and leading PK-12 students and teachers to take local action for global change. She believes that teachers, students, and scientists collaborating together is the key to create a more sustainable future for all living beings.