To the Moon and Back: Four Ways to Celebrate 50 Years of Exploration

50 years ago this July, Apollo 11 landed on the moon. BGCA STEM queen Susan is back on the ClubX Blog with four fun ways to mark the occasion.

It’s 1962—long before many of you were born, President John F. Kennedy spoke at Rice University in Houston, Texas. He stunned the world with his declaration: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade…”

It seemed impossible, we didn’t even have working rockets!

It was totally improbable, ridiculously expensive!

Most scientists and engineers were skeptical.

But a committed group of scientists, engineers, and thousands of others got to work. With determination and discipline, they conquered each obstacle, created new technologies, and contributed their unique skills and aspirations to achieving this goal. There were mistakes. There were crashes. There were even some deaths. But then it happened. On July 20, 1969, The United States of America landed 2 astronauts on the moon and Neil Armstrong took that “one small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind.”

This was 50 years ago and most of our young people don’t understand what an amazing accomplishment it was to have humans walking on the moon. This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the first humans to walk on the moon and we have an opportunity to help our youth start to understand the wonder of it all! Youth can gain inspiration from history for themselves and their generation. I know that sounds like a lot for summer, but it doesn’t have to be too heavy or too hard. Fun is the goal, so let’s blast off with some quick ideas to engage youth in a STEM celebration!

Take a Space Selfie

What could be faster than a selfie? NASA has created a selfie app that lets us insert ourselves into galaxies and nebulae all over the universe. You can find the app by searching for ‘NASA selfie’ in your phone’s app store or learn more here. (And please share some of yours with us in the comments!)

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Here’s mine!

Explore the Moon Mission Virtually

The JFK Library Foundation is proud of President Kennedy’s legacy in space exploration. He was the leader who pushed this country to take a shot at landing on the moon when it seemed unnecessary and unobtainable. This is literally what we call moonshot thinking! To celebrate this great achievement, the Foundation has released an app that provides an augmented reality experience of the entire mission. Take a look and see what you think—I got to watch the Saturn V rocket launch inside my kitchen—and walk around it to observe it from every angle. The app will take you and your youth through the whole mission so that eventually you will be there when Neil Armstrong walks on the moon. Get links the Apple app store and Google play on the site.

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Host a Far Out Party

Host a 50th Anniversary Celebration of the moon landing! It is a great opportunity to share about the history of the landing, have fun with some STEM activities, and inspire  youth to do some moonshot thinking about our current challenges. You can find a suggested agenda for the party here to get you started. Junior staff or other teens/tweens could do the planning—and end up learning all about Apollo missions, Saturn V rockets, JFK, and even space ice cream while they teach your younger members.

Shoot for the Starts With Space-Themed Activities

And if you want to go in deeper, BGCA offers an entire DIY STEM aeronautics unit (unit 4 in the facilitator’s guide!) that was created with NASA. It includes a wide variety of rocketry activities—effervescing rockets, balloon rockets, straw rockets, stomp rockets. We have so many rocket activities that you could do a different one every day of the week leading up to the 50th Anniversary. Find it on BGCA.net/stem.

Outer space has some of the most beautiful views—literally out of this world in their grandeur! I particularly love the inspiration from the NASA photos of different nebulae. Here’s a “how to” to get you started—it only takes pastels and black construction paper.

Finally, it’s not too late to register for the Space Explorers Challenge, an opportunity sponsored by the International Space Station National Lab, The JFK Library Foundation, and Raytheon. Your youth can explore current science experimentation happening on the International Space Station—if you register here you will be entered into a drawing to receive equipment for your tech center or even the chance to speak to astronauts on the ISS.


Do a little or do a lot—either way, be sure to connect what you’re doing not just to the moon landing 50 years ago, but also to the world our youth face right now. This period in history feels familiar, a lot like that period in the 1960’s when the world seemed scary and uncertain; when President Kennedy realized that the US needed to do something big if we were to maintain our place as a world leader. There are no simple answers, but it’s not the first time we’ve faced impossible challenges. Our history tells us that we can do the impossible when we set our mind to it. President Kennedy’s 1962 moonshot speech is just as inspiring (and relevant!) today:

So, this July, let’s celebrate the President who inspired the achievement of landing on the moon. Let’s celebrate the people who committed and helped achieved it. Let’s celebrate this generation of youth who will take on the challenges we face today and find a way to solve them. Moonshot thinking tells us that the impossible can get done! Let’s use history to inspire our youth to go for it!

How are you planning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing? What are your favorite space-themed activities? Share with us by commenting below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or by emailing ClubXBlog@bgca.org.


Susan

 Susan has been in the Movement for 8 years, including 6 at a local Club and 2 at BGCA. In her spare time, she loves exploring Atlanta, especially Piedmont Park and the Botanical Garden.

 

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