11 APRIL 2020
Who hasn’t dreamt of escaping to the stars? Especially now, with most of us confined to limited spaces and steeped in tragic news.
NASA and the ISS National Lab are ready to help. They’ve developed a range of adventurous programs and activities for all the children stuck in home lockdown, including a training program to become a home astronaut, build a hovercraft, launch rockets, and many more.
“Astronauts see the world from space and want to share its beauty and its wholeness,” explained ISS National Lab education manager Dan Barstow.
“They do medical experiments to search for cures, and they help young people see the power of the mysterious Universe to pull us to explore.”
Launch a soda straw rocket. (NASA)
Now children can follow their lead, with free educational activities that equip parents to help students explore science subjects, from life sciences and human health to robotics, maths and physics – complete with specific guides for kindergarten through to year 12.
Students can take part in experiments like astronauts do on the International Space Station, and compare the results to those from space.
For example, observing microgravity using simple materials to demonstrate how astronauts float in space – not due to lack of gravity, but because they are constantly falling towards Earth.
Kids can also contribute to science in progress by joining citizen science projects, like combing through images to search for new brown dwarfs and planets, using satellite data to help biologists track penguin populations, and training a computer to think like a scientist for future Mars missions.
Until April 22, students can even help choose which plant astronauts will next grow in space. The plan is for SpaceX’s October cargo resupply mission to provide astronauts with a spacefaring legume – but which legume has yet to be decided. You can join team Alfalfa, Mungbean, or Lentil, and help scientists work out which plant is the best suited for living on the ISS.
The Leguminaut Challenge also teaches educators design thinking and review processes – helpful skills for the new challenges many parents now face having had to take on the role of teacher.
In creating these activities the ISS National Lab and partners aim to inspire hope in young people during these challenging times, saying:
“We know many students are learning at home right now, and hands-on activities are especially important to keep students engaged and learning. We are all in this together.”