I had the opportunity this week to see the launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was the last night launch of the space shuttle program and the sight of it left me awestruck. It was powerful and inspiring!
I was watching the launch with my two young grandsons. They have always had an interest in the solar system and outer space as many young children do. We talked about the astronauts and the training they received in order to prepare themselves for the rigors of spaceflight.
We, as caregivers, parents and/or teachers of young children, can build on children’s interest by setting up Space Academy and providing physical challenges for our “young astronauts in training” to complete. Below are the course components of what the “astronauts” are to perform at each station. They are not only fun to do, but they also promote gross motor development, fine motor coordination, eye-hand coordination, eye-foot coordination, balance, spatial awareness, language development, creativity and imagination!
Blast Off: Designate a “launch pad” with a Hoop or Poly Spot Marker. The “astronaut” assumes a squatting position on the launch pad and begins the countdown chanting loudly and slowly, “10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1,0...BLAST OFF!” Children “blast off” (stand or jump) from squatting position, arms raised toward the sky.
Flying Saucer Throw: Hang a Hoop from a tree or a beam and instruct astronauts to throw a “flying saucer” (flying disc) through the hoop.
Orbiting Planets: Place 4-6 Cones two feet apart from each other. Children hold a Hoop around their waist and “orbit” (circle) around each cone as a planet would around the sun.
Asteroid Toss: Use Foam Balls or Sensory Balls and plastic Buckets. Astronauts toss the “asteroids” (balls) into the buckets to prevent them from hitting the earth!
Moon Walk: Set out Pods or Riverstones randomly but not too far apart. Astronauts step on each pod or stone as they walk on the moon’s uneven surface.
Ride a Moon Rover: Set out Roller Boards and Cones or Hop Around Steps. Astronauts sit on a “moon rover” (Roller Board) and travel around the Cones using their feet.
Return to Earth: Use a Joey Jump and Bean Bags. Astronauts place bean bag at end of “launch board” (Joey Jump). They step on the opposite end of the board to catapult the “retrorockets” (bean bags) and catch the rocket in their hands--ensuring a safe landing and the completion of another successful Space Shuttle mission.