Strategy Share: Bring Space Exploration to Your Classroom for #WorldSpaceWeek

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.
Through NASA Social, I attended a SpaceX resupply launch. You can attend similar events by connecting with NASA Social!
  • 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.
An example of a picture I was able to bring back to show 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:

Lesson Plan Resources:

My students loved seeing themselves in space.
A sample of National Geographic Education’s teaching resources on space.

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. 

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