Early Childhood + exploration + Space = INSPIRATION!

As I’ve learned from our amazing early childhood teachers , learning through play is critical in preschool and PreK. In DC, our youngest students start at 3 years old and see me once a week for science. For this unit, I wanted them to truly take part in owning our learning, while planning something that was developmentally appropriate. Taking my lead from the Creative Curriculum that our fabulous ECE teachers use, I had students brainstorm ideas and then vote. They came up with many ideas from rocks to unicorns. From there it seemed that their brainstormed ideas fell into three main categories: SPACE, ANIMALS and PLANTS. Then they voted.

A PreK student votes for which unit she would like to learn about next.

After all 5 classes voted, “SPACE “won” with plants a close second. ( Phew! That is how I needed things to go given our long winter!) From there, I wanted to ensure that students could experience, explore and be inspired by this abstract concept of “space” as much as possible and through dramatic play. Thus began the task of turning my classroom into “space”. 

Our amazing music teacher, Mr. Rogers, helped me hang a the planets ( TO SCALE) and help turn my classroom into one where students could come and explore this abstract concept. 

                    Check out the movie of us putting the planets together HERE!

Then came the fun part. The students have entered the class each day, excited by our missions. We still have a few weeks to go in this unit, but take a look at some of our work thus far. Enjoy the journey with us!


        ( For video compilations of our exploration, click on any of the links below too!)

                              Class 1: http://www.qwiki.com/v/m0BXBduy
                              Class 2: http://www.qwiki.com/v/ZUzL9h1F
                              Class 3: http://www.qwiki.com/v/MOA9ep3q
                              Class 4: http://www.qwiki.com/v/1pkeH1oi
                               Class 5: http://www.qwiki.com/v/Lg8I2a0P



                         It doesn’t take much. A crumpled grey sheet = planet on which to drive rovers and fly space craft: 

To reinforce the concept that “space” goes on and on, students used the mirror to create stars and space craft

Hanging shuttle over the moon that students must “fix” like in manned maneuvering units.
Tall rocket building, lunar rover driving, observations as seen from the shuttle and more!


Working together to complete space themed puzzles

Overall, this unit has been so inspiring… to me! Their excitement, awe, questions, thoughtfulness, collaboration and overall joy during this unit has been contagious! Interestingly, the National Society of Black Physicists began sharing our work on Twitter.

I was blown away when they noted that THIS AGE GROUP would likely be the first to be on a manned mission to Mars. To hear that my students, these little explorers, may follow this path only makes me more passionate to bring the sciences to our students. Read more about the NASA Mars Exploration Program here.

Might one of these children be the first?
In addition, I was recently selected to attend the Honeywell Educator Space Camp at the US Space and Rocket Center this June. It has always been a professional goal of mine to learn more about space science and it just so happened that my acceptance has coincided with our youngest learners’ journey. I can’t wait to bring back all I learn next year! 
Finally, it seems that all the stars are aligning because my dear childhood friend and amazing author/illustrator Jason Chin is releasing his newest book called “GRAVITY” at the end of the month. While his books normally are for the 3rd-5th grade age, this one is perfect for our youngest learners. 
Old friends reunited at NSTA14 in Boston! See Jason at the USA Science and Engineering Festival April 25th or at Politics and Prose on the 24th.
Until next time,
-Mrs. Ford

Posted in Specials Posts, Think Tank.