Saturday, February 2, 2008

Do You Realize?? We're Floating In Space

Let me just begin by saying... it thrills me how everyone has been absorbing all this information about outer space, like a sponge in the sea. I've heard several comments from parents about how much their child is talking about the universe at home, even citing facts regarding how it can be day in one part of the world and night in another, or simply mind-blowing ideas like, "Did you know that the Earth is moving RIGHT NOW? but we can't feel it??" (This is for the same reason why in an airplane, we do not feel like we are moving as fast as we actually are).

One of the most valuable classroom resources for learning about outer space has been books. We have some terrific books that are filled with beautiful pictures and lots of information, and the children have been spending a great deal of time looking through them. What could be better?














Everyone also thinks it's SO COOL that the inflatable Earth is now hanging from the ceiling, so we've begun a project to hang other heavenly bodies around the classroom. Last week, we began work on creating the sun. After looking at several pictures of the sun (and noting that it is super dangerous to look directly at it), we were able to decide on the colors of the materials to use for our own. The children used paint as well as a variety of collage materials to make two, and we will put them together with stuffing in the middle (newspaper probably) and then hang it up. We can repeat this with planets, at the children's discretion. I'm pretty sure they will want to make Jupiter and Saturn, two of their favorites.


Some Sun facts we have discussed:
The Sun is a star, and stars are balls of really hot gas. Some stars are really big, some are really small; the Sun is average-sized. The hottest stars are blue, the 'coolest' are red, and yellow stars are in between. How hot a star is also determines its size (hotter = bigger). Everything in our solar system goes in circles (orbits) around the sun. Earth is the perfect distance ('just right,' like Goldilocks) from the Sun to allow life to survive. The Sun gives us light and heat. Nearly everything on the planet needs sunlight to live. When a star 'dies,' or can no longer give off heat and light, it explodes.

Sometimes this forms a black hole, but we haven't talked about that yet because, frankly, it's incredibly difficult to even comprehend that such a 'thing' exists out there. AAAH!!!

Many of the children enjoyed making moons out of our modeling clay. This happened after one child made a moon, complete with craters, without guidan
ce from a teacher. The clay was out during freeplay, and the children could make whatever they desired, and it's just the bee's knees that this happened so purely. A similar thing happened when one child brought in a homemade telescope, fashioned from paper towel tubes. Emergent curriculum in action! These two activities were created by the children, literally. It gives me that warm fuzzy feeling inside.








The children's clay/space creations are on display above the writing center. Check them out!

We conducted a sometimes-successful experiment involving balloons, string, and straws, demonstrating how jet propulsion helps space shuttles (and airplanes) move so quickly. Below is a video illustrating one of the better trials.


video

And of course, the space ship has been getting a significant amount of use.
Maintenance is required (duct tape = crucial), but this has been great training for the children who are future astronauts. When these children are grown up, I wonder what sorts of new knowledge we will have about space, because there is still so much we do not know. There are usually articles in the Science sections about new space discoveries, and there is almost always a high-tech satellite sending back photos of a planet or a moon, and this is where the internet rules, because you can see these photos as they come back. The internet is full of beautifully-detailed, high-resolution pictures from space that are worth checking out with your children.

I read one article this week about NASA's plans to beam The Beatles' "Across the Universe" directly into outer space. This is the first song to have this honor, and will celebrate 50 years of NASA and the 40th anniversary of the song's recording. It is being aimed at Polaris, the north star, some 430 light years away. For the record, that's 2,527,808,910,468,951 miles (4,068,114,103,209,744 kM) away.
Uhh... what comes after trillions??

Is this government money well spent? Probably not. On a related note, about a decade ago, NASA sent some ladybugs into space to study how they behave in zero-gravity, and named four of them John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

But not all news stories about space involve The Beatles. Currently, the Mercury Messenger is taking photos of the planet Mercury, including sides of the planet previously unseen. The photographs are brilliant. Also, this Thursday, the space shuttle Atlantis will head up to the International Space Station to deliver supplies.

Go to http://news.bbc.co.uk in the Science/Nature section for some wonderful space articles, or also check out the NASA website.

That's all for now. Long post. Enjoy!

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