The following blog post was written by Lauren Hathaway, a member of Eye On Education's editorial staff.
On April 12, 1961, Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin became the first person to travel to space and orbit the Earth. In the months that followed, astronauts Alan Shepard, John Glen, and Gherman Titov all completed successful missions to outer space as well, and less than ten years later, Neil Armstrong and the crew of the Apollo 11 were the first to land on the moon. To date, over five hundred people have orbited the Earth.
Outer space is an object of fascination for many kids and adults alike, and teachers can take advantage of this fascination when teaching about astronomy. Hundreds of quality resources are available online that can enrich the study of outer space and capture students’ imaginations. Space is not just a topic for science classes. Resources on outer space are available to challenge students’ knowledge and understanding of math, history, technology, literacy, and more.
Here are five resources available to help make learning about outer space an out-of-this-world experience:
- For a general introduction to astronomy and the universe, check out the teaching materials provided by Smithsonian Education, “The Universe: An Introduction.” This guided lesson plan provides downloadable activity materials, supplemental videos, and general explanations of important concepts that will provide a good framework to begin learning about outer space.
- You’ve probably heard of Google Earth and may even use it in your classroom already, but did you know that with Google Earth you can also explore outer space? The Sky feature allows users to browse around and zoom in to distant galaxies and nebulae, view constellations and the movements of the planets, listen to astronomy podcasts, and more. Visit Google Earth to learn more.
- NASA offers hundreds of classroom activities, including lesson plans, video clips, and games, for grades K-12. The educator guides include ideas for classes across the curriculum and look at topics ranging from rockets to the mathematics of black holes.
- For amazing space photos and valuable information, visit HubbleSite, the home page of the Hubble telescope. The website has hundreds of Hubble images available to view and interactive features for learning about astronomy. Educators and developers can even visit a special section of the website, “Amazing Space,” to access teaching tools, astronomy basics, and educational/public outreach resources.
- A fun way for students to review what they’ve learned is to play Astronomy Jeopardy. Let students be in control of their learning by giving them the opportunity to split into groups and formulate their own questions to contribute to the game. For a sample activity guide and questions, see the classroom activities provided by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
What are your best ideas for teaching about outer space? Leave a comment below.