Developing Out of This World Problem Solvers

BGCA’s Lesa Sexton is back and with these space themed activities she is shining a light on the total eclipse that is my heart. <3

It’s my firm belief that astronauts are about as superhuman as they come. I mean, you’d have to be superhuman to get through a rigorous application process in which you’re 1 of 4,000 candidates competing for only 20 openings! These individuals are basically human computers in tip-top physical shape that have mastered the art of teamwork and collaboration. My heroes!

Fun Fact: Boys & Girls Clubs have space representation! Former Club kid Capt. Winston Scott is a former astronaut and was inducted into the Boys & Girls Clubs Hall of Fame in 2013. During his illustrious career he logged nearly 25 days in space!

Outer space has fascinated, captivated, and enthralled individuals since the dawn of time. This “final frontier” offers countless questions that beg investigation:

What would happen to a spaceship trying to land on Jupiter?

How many stars are in the universe?

What does space sound like?

Are we alone?

Could Matt Damon really have survived that long stranded on Mars?  

While we may not know all of these answers (yet!), one thing is certain: space provides the perfect setting for developing curious, creative, critical thinkers. Read on for suggestions of how you can engage your youth in interactive activities that teach, challenge, and inspire!

Houston, we have a problem … solver!

The International Space Station has a number of educational resources available for elementary and middle school students that you can use to engage your youth in some fun space-themed activities.

The science experiments and activities shared at Become a Home Astronaut will keep your youth riveted! Youth can go on virtual “missions” to analyze data downloaded directly from the ISS, watch videos in which crewmembers play with toys in space and compare them to toys on Earth, and submit proposals for DNA experiments that can be done on board!

The Space Station Explorers STEM Guide offers 6 activities for youth in grades 3-8 that that lead them through hands-on minds-on STEM learning experiences. Use models to better understand how far the moon is from the Earth, co-create the next mission patch, build a paper rocket, and use the engineering design process to create a space station module!

The International Space Station Activity Book is designed for youth in grades 6-8 and includes trivia, brain teasers, puzzles, word searches, and mad libs. (This would be perfect for any Club handing out take-home packets along with food distribution!)

Kristy Robb, a Youth Development Professional from Boys & Girls Clubs of Elkhart County, has used many of these resources and loves them all. She described one of her youth’s favorite space activities: building their own lunar rover.

Each team was given two axles, four wheels, and various building materials. They were given 10 minutes to plan their design and 45 minutes to make it come to life. We had races and gave out prizes for the rover that went the farthest, fastest, and looked the most realistic. This was by far the their most favorite activity all summer! 

Interested in hearing more about these resources? Check out the recording from our webinar “Using Space Exploration to Inspire Creative Problem-Solving”.

Intergalactic reading adventures

The only thing more fun than reading a good story is reading a good story IN SPACE. With Story Time From Space, youth can watch astronauts read children’s books and with Science Time From Space, youth can watch astronauts perform science demonstrations that complement the concepts covered in the books! I personally loooove the book “Rosie Revere, Engineer” about perseverance, passion, and learning from failure. I could watch Astronaut Kate Rubins read it every day for encouragement!

Meteoric images

The view of Earth from space almost universally (pun!) leaves astronauts speechless. Astronaut Ron Garan explained it like this:

Seeing Earth from this vantage point gave me a unique perspective – something I’ve come to call the orbital perspective. Part of this is the realization that we are all traveling together on the planet and that if we all looked at the world from that perspective we would see that nothing is impossible.

While we may not have an opportunity to experience the breathtaking view ourselves, we can see some pretty amazing images taken by astronauts themselves. Windows on Earth maintains a collection of images of the globe organized by region and landform. Every day astronauts post a mystery image and invite people to guess the subject of the photo. The photos can also be used to start a discussion about population density, climate change, and the impact of natural disasters.

Isn’t it ~*magical*~? Image Source

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.

-Carl Sagan



What are your favorite space-themed activities? How do you teach problem solving in fun and engaging ways? Let us know in the comments, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook, or by emailing!


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