Updated: Apr 3, 2020
Explore the universe with these free, family-friendly resources from NASA that are sure to inspire kids of all ages.
Part Three in a series of posts to highlight resources that support at-home learning....
During these times of quarantines and social distancing, it's easy to become focused on how our lives have become more limited in scope as we narrow our physical interactions with others in order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19. Yet the universe we inhabit is just as unbelievable large as always and is available to explore with an incredible range of resources from NASA, even while staying at home.
NASA at Home is a compilation of hands-on activities, online experiences, and videos created by the agency and their partners that families can use together while learning from home. Understanding the increased need for online educational opportunities, NASA is continuing to expand its educational resources so it would be helpful to bookmark the landing page and periodically check for updates.
As of this writing, the following content is currently available for use:
No matter the age of your student, NASA's STEM@Home initiative provides an unbelievable amount of resources for learners from kindergarten to college. Activities are divided into grades K-4, grades 5-8, grades 9-12, and higher education. Each collection not only contains activities for students but lesson plans and educator guides for teachers as well. There aren't just hours of learning fun but days of it, with a wide range of maker activities, hands-on experiments and educational video games. There are even downloadable storybooks that families that enjoy together. This is definitely a "don't miss" collection of resources so be sure to check it out.
Like STEM@Home, this site is a clearinghouse of hands-on activities yet contains many more lesson plans, particularly for grades K-8. Whether you are a teacher who is providing online content for your students or a parent that is looking for a way to supplement your child's online learning experience, these lessons are laid out in such a way that it's easy to guide instruction. You'll find a variety of lessons aimed at outdoor activities as well as information about getting involved in Citizen Science projects that allow participants to collect real data used in real research in multitude of categories that include testing for water quality to mapping snowfall amounts and much, much more.
NASA's Space Place is a site designed for younger learners, particularly those of elementary school age. There are games, crafts, and videos related to several themes that include Earth, Sun, Solar System, Universe, Science and Technology and more. There are also links to numerous educator and parent resources that include activities featuring hands-on experiments, math practice, paper-craft models, and loads of other fun learning things to do as an individual or with the family.
Learning Space is another resource-rich site, in case collated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. Here, you'll find instructions for making things like rockets, Mars rovers and Moon landers out of materials you have at home – or with templates you can print out. There's also a fun video series, Learning Space, with demonstrations and questions geared for students K-8. There are also a number of DIY projects, slideshows about space, games and links to other NASA-related sites. As with other sites, JPL is rising to meet the demand for additional at-home learning materials and as such, is continuing to add new content; so check back often.
Besides NASA at Home, here are some additional space-related lesson collections:
Infiniscope is a learning community sponsored jointly by NASA and Arizona State University that provides exploratory self-directed lessons related to Earth and space science for middle school and high school students. While each lesson is easy to follow for learners, there are also educator resources that accompany each that allow teachers to provide additional guidance for the assignments. The lessons center around high-interest topics and include beautiful HD 360 degree images and videos, thought-provoking questions and career connections for further study. We highly recommend exploring this entertaining and educational deep-dive into learning.
As described on the website, "PLANETS (Planetary Learning that Advances the Nexus of Engineering, Technology, and Science) is a partnership for the development and dissemination of NASA out-of-school time curricular and educator resource modules that integrate planetary science, technology, and engineering, particularly with underrepresented audiences." That means, the material has been specifically designed for use in afterschool activities such as clubs or community center tutoring programs and therefore, have very detailed and easy-to-understand instructions for those who are leading the activities that typically are not teachers (perhaps like yourself). There are three main units of instruction: Remote Sensing (Grades 6-8), Water in Extreme Environments (Grades 6-8) and Space Hazards (Grades 3-5). Each unit includes real-world examples of each topic and is supported by instructional videos, hands-on activities, flash cards, posters, and more.
This highly interactive collection of lessons produced by PBS is divided into four grade bands that include Grades K-2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, and Grades 9-12. Each topical collection includes easy to follow lesson plans and feature a wide variety of innovative media to support learning. Topics include Weather and Climate, Earth's Systems, Space, Light Waves, and more.
Beyond the Chalkboard is a learning platform produced by Boston Children's Museum that provides learning activities in a number of content areas, including space-themed resources created in partnership with NASA. These activities, appropriate for elementary school students and particularly K-3, featuring lots of making and movement but also works in a little ELA and social studies as well.
We hope that among this vast collection, you and your children will find a number of activities that will inspire you to learn more about our incredible universe, even while occupying only a small space within it. Our perception greatly influences our reality, and it's our hope that by focusing on the stars, your point of view may shift to rise above whatever current situation that you face as you come together as a family to learn, laugh, and discover all that is wondrous in the world.
If you found something that you and your students enjoyed, please let us know by leaving a comment below. We'd love to hear from you!