Seven Easy Ways To Get Young People Involved In Space Activities Today
It’s never been a better time to get young people involved in space activities that are provided by different agencies from around the world - with most of them being free. Jonathan Nalder shares a few ideas and links for you to jump right in and start today.
Space is big. Of course, this is one reason why kids of all ages love learning about it so much. But when only around 560 people have ever been there, it's easy to understand why it can seem far away and out of reach for young people – particularly in countries that don't have a big space industry as yet.
The message of this article, however, is that there are many ways for kids to get involved and begin a potential career exploring space – all from home. Have a look through all the options below, and pass them on to every kid you know (including maybe yourself!).
Send your name to Mars
Forget about being one of the few humans that have been to space – no one has yet been to Mars. And yet millions of people's names have been sent there etched onto microchips as part of NASA’s robotic missions there. The most recent mission, Mars 2020, which saw the delivery of the Perseverance rover to Mars, has its chip on a special bracing that is part of the rover’s structure.
The ‘send your name to Mars’ program has been run so far across six missions: Mars 2020, Mars Science Lab, MAVEN, Mars Exploration Rovers, Orion and InSight. It even has a frequent flyer club to help prospective space explorers keep track of just how far such missions travel. You can sign up for future missions here.
Postcards to the edge of Space
Sending objects to space has always been something only Space Agencies and a very few private companies have been able to do - but Blue Origin has been making room on its New Shepard booster flights to take thousands of student drawings and writings right to the edge of space.
This ‘Club for the future’ program sees kids all over the world creating actual postcards to mail to Blue Origins headquarters in Seattle, USA. From there they are transported to Texas and loaded onto the New Shepard booster. After launch, New Shepard’s reusable booster returns for a touchdown back at it’s landing pad, while the capsule it took to 100km’s high descends to Earth under parachutes.
Once the capsule has landed, the postcards are recovered, each one is stamped "Flown to Space," and mailed back to senders as an incredibly unique space-flown keepsake. Anyone can sign up to participate here.
Learning Space with NASA@Home
Back to NASA now to the ‘Learning Space with NASA at home’ project from JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory). While it won’t take your name or drawing to space, it does contain a huge range of activities that kids can access and try from home, from creating scale models of the solar system, making a moon crater, building spaghetti rovers and more. You can find one to suit just about any learner at the site here
Space Australia Articles
Not to be outdone, Space Australia itself has been compiling a collection of programs students can jump into from a range of different providers. Some highlights are:
This program is a global challenge focused on student coding and STEAM skills. The 2021 challenge runs from 24 May and offers options for learning about constellations, fire danger and carbon footprint projects. Learn more here.
Kibo robotics challenge
Kibo lets young people engage with a challenge to save the ISS (International Space Station) by coding the floating Kibo robot that patrols the station to respond to a mico-meteroite impact. Students can start training through May ahead of the main challenge happening from June. Sign up here.
Andy Thomas Foundation Scholarships
Specifically for Australian students in years 7 to 9, the Andy Thomas foundation is making nine awards of $5,000 each available for students and teachers doing school projects connected to space technologies that can help solve Australia’s local environmental, economical and social challenges. Awardees can also get to visit the recently launched Australian Space Discovery Centre at Lot Fourteen in Adelaide.
STEM Punks ‘Design a Space Base’ activities
Aimed at providing fun home based activities for primary school learners, this series of 3 videos that I helped present for STEM Punks takes students through designing a space base using 3D design software and the Design Thinking methodology.
Filmed as part of a ‘Space Week’ project in 2020, the episodes are now free for kids anywhere to watch and learn along with.
Watch episode 1 for free below. Additionally, Enrol for free and watch episode 2 and 3.
Through over 20 years in Education, Jonathan (MEd, BA/ BEd) has seen how life-long learning, digital tools (STEAM, AR/VR, mobile) & ‘spacethinking’ transform lives. Now, as founder of the First Kids on Mars, Space Futures Coach for STEM Punks, an Advance Queensland Digital Champion, SpaceNation activity designer, HundrEd Advisor (Finland) & CoSpaces AR/VR Ambassador, he actively helps leaders & learners shift thinking to embrace the coming fully digital, and ‘off-Earth’ era as their most human selves via tools developed for STEM Punks and the Future Ready Framework (FutureWe.org/framework).
Recently Jonathan’s work was recognised as part of STEM Punks receiving the global Big Innovation Award 2021. He also presented at the Space Habitat Event in late 2020 with HI-SEAS Commander Dr Michaela Musilova, spoke at the world’s largest Education conference ISTE online about a Dark Skies project, and was recognised by CleverBooks as a Top 50 innovator with Augmented Reality.