An Integrated Study of Astronomy

Early Childhood: students became astronauts and flew into outer space, traveling on a space shuttle that they designed and built themselves. Using recycled materials, engineers devised a plan to transform our kitchen and build a vehicle for space flight. They painted large pieces of cardboard with white paint to simulate the outside of NASA’s space shuttle. Silver rocket boosters were assembled with cardboard tubing and aluminum foil. The most important part, the controls, were constructed with bottle tops, paperclips, and other recycled items. Engineers assembled the control panels making sure to include switches and buttons for launch, landing, and emergency escape! After watching a video of real NASA astronauts in space and seeing how they live, Early Childhood students had a blast acting as astronauts in our space shuttle.

After exploring the vast outer space, the children became artists and created a large mural of space. Using colors that resemble stars, students splattered paint over black paper to created hundreds of stars. Then, they coated pom-poms in paint and dropped them onto the paper. These marks looked like planets and larger stars. The work made a lovely backdrop for the three-dimensional planets made by older students.

Kindergarten:  Each Kindergartener created a Solar System based on the information they culled from read aloud, class discussions, books, pictures, our field trip, and movie clips. Because everyone was working at their own pace, the children decided having checklist would be the best way to keep track of their project. Legos provided the provocation for another Solar System model and, finally, we are collaborating with our Upper Primary buddies and creating a large, paper mache solar system to hang in the school.  Next, we will be exploring light, dark and shadows and figuring out why the moon changes shape.

Lower Primary:  Lower Primary astronomers have been exploring the sun.  They learned about sunspots, solar flares, and how the sun’s rays affect Earth.  Each student in Lower Primary then painted their own representation of the sun.  In the writing center, they had the opportunity to write down all that they learned about the sun.  S.T.E.A.M. satellite construction is also underway.  Engineers were challenged design and build a satellite that will orbit the moon. It will have to carry a combination of solar panels, cameras, gravity probes and heat sensors to probe the moon's surface. The satellite should be able to withstand a 20meter drop test without any parts falling off and should be no heavier than 36 grams.  Groups in Lower Primary have been persevering through all of the obstacles that arose as they built.  Collaborating to problem solve is one of the most important goals in establishing this center.  The designs that the students have come up with are innovative and inventive.  One group added blasters just incase their satellite comes in contact with a meteor when orbiting the moon!  

Upper Primary:  Upper Primary students have reflected upon our Universe and how it began. Students are now evaluating the parts of our Solar System. They are learning that we belong to an interconnected universe made up of complex systems that include many elements. Students are investigating the placement of the parts to the whole. 

To gain an idea of the vastness of the universe and the distance between planets, students designed and created a model of relative distance. Students explored how astronomers and scientists use astronomical units to measure distances in the solar system. They learned that an astronomical unit (AU) is equal to the average distance from Earth to the Sun. The AU is a convenient unit of measure when talking about distances in the solar system. During math, students used this information to chart the planets’ distances. Students first created a scale model across an entire wall of their classroom. Later, mathematicians graphed the distances of each planet to the Sun.  

Through individual, group, and whole-class learning experiences, students are exploring and comparing the attributes of individual planets. Students have been researching and recording key information about each of the planets. Note taking is a crucial skill that promotes practice in synthesizing information. Students have to figure out for themselves what is important, and record it in a clear and concise way. Note-taking is a personal process that manifests in different forms. It can often appear as a map of understanding with intersecting connections along with illustrations and questions that fuel further discovery.  

Students visit Suffolk Community College Planetarium to kick off their winter astronomy unit.

Students visit Suffolk Community College Planetarium to kick off their winter astronomy unit.

Kathryn QuigleyComment