Outer Space!

Outer space was always one of my favorite themes in Kindergarten.  It was a way to follow up or tie together our study of the earth; day and night; conservation; air, land and water, etc.  Most of all it was a lot of fun!

We made a book to introduce the basic concepts.

For the cover the children colored the letters with florescent crayons and we did a wash over the words with diluted black paint.  Then we cut out the circle and glued it onto the book cover.

When we made this page we learned about how all the planets go around the sun.  The children had to cut out the squares containing the planets and glue them in order (they are numbered!) around the outside of a white circle of paper.  Then they used a brad fastener to put the sun in the middle, then the white circle, all fastened to the paper with a brad.  Most children are able to use a brad fastener if they put the paper on the carpet to push the brad through – one piece of paper at a time.

We made the earth page by bubble printing!  I put blue (turquoise) paint and dish soap in a margarine dish.  The children blew bubbles with a straw, then set the paper over the top, making bubble prints.  Then they cut out the circle and tore green earth pieces to glue on.

We made this page lots of different ways over the years – it usually involved glitter!  Sometimes we made it with melted crayon.

I wanted our astronauts to look like they were floating in space, with no gravity.  We made a boingie and used that to fasten the astronaut to the page.  The curled ribbon is part of his air tank.  If you aren’t familiar with the technical term “boingie – here is how we did it.

Take 2 strips of paper 1 inch x 9 inches.  For kids it helps to use two different colors.  Glue one end of each strip together to form the letter L.  Then take the strip that is on the bottom of fold it over the strip on the top, keeping the edges very neat.  DO NOT PICK IT UP.  Just keep folding the bottom strip over the top till you get to the end of the paper, then add a dab of glue.  These are great to make “pop-up” books too!  If this isn’t clear please let me know and I will take photos of the steps.

We glued these rockets to a strip of tagboard and then made a slit in the page so it could pull up, as if it were blasting off!  Counting backward was part of our math curriculum, this was a good time to practice!

Here are the masters to make this book:

Space night masters

This is an old ditto activity that I used for the planets that rotate the sun.  I cut off the strip at the bottom and the children glued them around the white circle.  I had to change the numbers because they have Pluto for #8 and Neptune for #9.  A few years ago scientists downgraded Pluto from a planet.  I was very sad.  I talked with the children about how Pluto had not changed, just what the scientists were calling it, we decided to leave Pluto, but we could tell people that scientists now say it isn’t a true planet.  We read a great book written by a 3rd grade class called Poor Pluto!  They will probably remember Pluto long after all the others!

Years ago, before we were really asking all children to read in kindergarten I used to put more text on each page of my books.  At that time I was trying to expose them to print, and to facts about Space.  Basically we read these little poems often enough that most children memorized them.  Now I try to use short, emergent level sentences including lots of sight words in all the books.  Here are the original poems I wrote.

Years ago, my family was visiting the Air and Space Smithsonian museum in Washington DC.  There was a very small room displaying all kinds of children’s art work about Outer Space, and a song was playing called The Family of the Sun.  It gave a couple of facts about each planet, and I loved it.  I went to the Information desk and the gift shop but this song – or the words, were not available to buy.  So I sat in that little room listening to the song over and over and wrote it down!!  I have no idea who wrote it, and years later I saw it in print with a few different words.  Since then scientists have gained information and decided there are more moons, etc. but I love this song and continued to teach it.  Feel free to adapt the facts to be more current!

I changed Saturn’s 8 rings to “great rings” and Jupiter – “we found out it has lots of moons, and a big red spot.”

Here is the original to print:
The Family of the Sun

For many years my class made all 9 planets out of paper mache and I hung them in order from our ceiling.  When we were learning the song I used cardstock “planets” and put them onto a magnet board in the order they are from the sun.  We reviewed the facts often as they learned the song.  After the children could sing the song I would choose a “planet runner.”  That child would stand under a planet as we sang that verse of the song, and walked the length of the room, standing under each planet as we sang – they loved that!!  I also really liked calling the planets the family of the sun – helping them to remember that all the planets circle the sun.

I made fabric vests that slipped over the children’s heads.  They were dark blue, and one had a sun sewn on it, one had an earth, and one had the moon.  We learned about rotating, revolving, orbiting, etc.  First we talked and demonstrated how the moon goes around the earth, and talked about how long it takes.  Then the child wearing the sun vest would stand in the middle while the earth circled around it, talking about daytime and night time – as the child faced the sun and faced away from the son.  Last we added the moon going around the earth, at the same time the earth was going around the sun.  You could easily do this with paper bag vests too – or even just make a sun, earth and moon necklace for the children to wear while they practice these concepts.

Here are some of the books I used with this unit:

Of course Roxie Heart had to make an appearance to share facts about stars – here she is in her star dress!

At the end of our space unit I told the children that we were going to take a trip into Outer Space.  We made flight bags:

I ran these off on construction paper, they were folded in half and stapled on the sides.  Then I cut paper about 3 x 3 inches.  The children drew and labeled what they would take along on a trip to space and put these inside the flight bags.  We also made astronaut helmets:

Sometimes I gave them flag stickers, stars, etc., or they just decorated with crayons or markers.  Some children added a microphone so they could talk with Mission Control while they were out in space.

I got the pattern for the astronaut helmets from a reproducible hat book that I no longer have.  Here is a sketch to give you an idea of how we made them.

I began with 18 x 12 inch construction paper, and cut 3 inches off one long side.  Then I traced the shape of the helmet onto the paper for the children – usually they traced for themselves, but when it was this large they often had trouble centering it on the paper.  I cut the 3 inch strip into 6 inch segments,  we stapled one of these to the 2 sides to make it fit around their heads.  These fit loosely, not like a hat – because they have to go on and off over their face.  If you are trying to make a tracer yourself, it might help to fold it in half as you work on it – so it will be symmetrical.   I don’t know if this will help at all, but here is a printable version of my sketch.

Astronaut helmet

At the end of our unit I played An Adventure in Space by Steve and Greg – it is on their CD – On the Move with Steve and Greg.  It takes you through acting out putting on space equipment, getting into the space ship, blasting off, landing – a space walk, meteor shower, and the return to earth amid crowd fanfare.  Of course we wore our helmets for this (I tried to do it when no parents would be in the classroom – I don’t have much dignity but you really have to get into this!)

I also turned my playcenter into Mission Control.  My husband built a 3 sided board for controls and added an old telephone dial, switches and buttons to push, and a count down spinner from 10-0.  I added old headphones from a listening center for the NASA scientists to use.

We also made a big cardboard rocket ship – it was only 2 dimensional, but I put a milk crate behind it for a child to stand on to peek out the window.  The astronaut wore a helmet made of an old ice cream tub, connected to two 2 liter pop bottles that were tied together and worn like a backpack for air packs.

The best part of this was that we had all 9 planets suspended from the ceiling.  The language was amazing – I loved listening to the Mission Control astronauts asking the rocket person if he could see the red spot on Jupiter yet, or how many rings they saw around Saturn.  They used so many of the facts we learned about the planets while they were playing.  The only disadvantage was that they couldn’t gauge their voice levels wearing those headphones, and they often were pretty loud!  After playing space for a short time all the children easily counted backward from 10-0.

I spent quite a bit of time creating this center, but I used it for over 20 years!  This is one of the things that makes Kindergarten fun and memorable, and also creates a natural environment to encourage oral language, vocabulary development, problem solving and lots of other social skills!

Outer Space was one of the themes that I developed into a Parent/child activity night.  I alternated between Cowboys, Pirates and Space for these special evenings where children were invited to come back to school for dinner and thematic activities.  One of the main reasons I did this was to educate parents about our curriculum and how children learn best through hands on activities.

This is a list of the activities we did one year, sometimes we changed and did alternate projects.

An important part of these evenings was dinner – it had to be easy and cheap, here is the menu from one year:

Obviously this year we served hot dogs, sometimes we had sloppy joes (bought in a can at Gordon Food Service) or pizza.

I am going to share lots of projects and masters that you might like to use.  I really tried to include activities that spanned the curriculum, math, language arts, art, large motor activities, fine motor projects, etc.  I know that some of them are seriously outdated, please pick and choose – or feel free to just ignore!!

Here is an example of a math activity – using coins to “buy” stars:

We also loved weighing Milky Way candy bars in a balance scale – I bought the mini ones, of course they had to eat them too!

Space night masters

more directions

activities

alien

menu

money stars

Space invitation

Here are some Language Arts activities.  One time we made an alphabet book of Outer Space things:

I used this sheet to assess my children’s phonetic spelling.  I made sure each child worked on this independently and they had to stretch out the sounds and write what they heard.  It gave me great information!

This is an older activity, the children drew and wrote about good reasons to be an astronaut, AND why they would not want to.  I liked helping them think about both perspectives.  In more recent years they chose one or they other because they were writing sentences and needed more space.

This ditto could easily be turned into a file folder game or partner game.  The focus is on rhyming.

Here are the masters for these activities:
language arts

Here are some fun math activities:

Practice writing numbers.

Here are a bunch of masters, including outlines for pattern blocks.

more activities

Finally, here are more activities that I had in my files that I collected or used over the years.  Hopefully you can find something useful!
projects & clipart

Even going through these old projects and files makes me smile!  We had so much fun with this unit, I hope you do too!

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Peterson
    May 22, 2011 @ 01:15:16

    I LOVE this – I can’t wait to explore more of your fun ideas. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with the rest of us.

    Reply

  2. Heather
    May 22, 2011 @ 21:25:21

    Such cute ideas. I have used so many of them. How did you make the astronaut helmets that the kids are wearing in the pictures? I would love to try and make them next year. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  3. Rachel Kuser
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 15:26:31

    Really great ideas…just one quick question…what did you use to create the moon walk? We are doing an event at my summer camp about astronauts and I would like to make some sort of gross motor moon walk activity, so any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply

    • dbsenk
      Aug 10, 2011 @ 19:54:26

      I have done this Outer Space Night quite a few times, and the moon walk was always different. At first we tied a rope to the outside doorframe of the school, and to a belt on the other end. There were 2 sets – one for the parent, one for the child. That really limited how many kids could go on the Moon Walk at one time, so you could make Moon Walk belts with sentence strips – just punch holes on the ends and tie on pieces of yarn, and they will tie around their waist – the kids could decorate them with space pictures.

      When they went outside they went through an obstacle course with a balance beam, small jogging trampoline (no gravity), pictures of aliens, a tunnel,alien footprints to follow or count, looking for moon rocks, and craters, etc. Sometimes we put materials on the ground to walk on like big pieces of foam. Sometimes the adventure took place on the Kindergarten playground – so we incorporated that equipment too. They could also contribute to making a flag to place on the “moon” or each make an individual flag that they could push into the ground – small flags can be made with a pencil as the flag pole, or a small dowel. Have fun!

      Reply

  4. Rachel Kuser
    Aug 11, 2011 @ 12:30:05

    Thank you so much! I’m sure the kids will love it!

    Reply

  5. Vanessa
    Dec 26, 2011 @ 22:45:34

    There are so many amazing Ideas that I can use…I work with toddlers but these are very easy to simplify and I love it I cant wait for our space them in 2 weeks

    Reply

  6. Jessica Baker
    Aug 23, 2013 @ 06:15:43

    Ooh super stuff. I have four children, 4 and 2 year old girls, and 4 month old boy and girl twins. My eldest starts school in a fortnight and over the summer we have been doing different themes each week. We’ve been doing space this week and your post has been ever so helpful. The girls have been racing around in astronaut helmets and even little Jimmy had a go wearing one. I wish I could send you a photo to say thank you for all your time and effort in putting up these posts. I will be visiting again!

    Reply

    • dbsenk
      Aug 23, 2013 @ 09:09:43

      Thank you so much for your special note! Your kids are just about the age of my grandchildren – a boy 4, twin girls 3, a girl just 1 and another coming before too long! I haven’t thought of doing themes with them! What a slacker I am!

      Reply

  7. Jen Perez
    May 18, 2014 @ 01:24:49

    I love your poetry. Do you have a title for your poem? Also, I would love to give you credit. Please email me your name and title of the poem. Thank you!

    Reply

    • dbsenk
      May 18, 2014 @ 07:37:36

      I wrote those little poems to use in a book that the children made, one poem on each page. Later I changed the text to a simpler version so they children could read it. You are welcome to share it, just title it Outer Space and mention Kindergarten Nana!

      Reply

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