Preschool STEAM (for children ages 2-6) is all about having fun with science, technology, math and art! There is no right or wrong way for children to experiment – the fun and learning comes from the doing! Early childhood research shows us that little hands and minds learn best when at play.
For our November 2019 STEAM adventure, we explored the Solar System! This program was inspired by a NASA@My Library grant funded by the California State Library. As part of this grant, Pasadena Public Library was awarded a NASA STEM Facilitation Kit which contained curriculum for teaching about sun-earth-moon connections. Although the kit was created with school age children in mind, we were able to adapt the information for preschoolers. Here’s what we did.
To give the children a visual and tactile experience, we created a model of the solar system with Styrofoam balls and acrylic paints.
Interns from the famous ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena did a beautiful job painting/designing our Styrofoam planets! A special thanks to them for their artistry.
The model “planets” were mounted onto Styrofoam platforms with wooden dowels, then placed on the ground in linear order beginning with the sun. We also labeled each planet. Although it would have been more accurate to place the planets in a circular configuration to represent them orbiting the sun, we were limited by space constraints.
Our first activity was Jump to Jupiter!
First, children created space suits from brown paper sacks, cellophane and painter’s tape.
After they donned their space suits it was time for take off! Off they went following in the footsteps of astronauts.
Children could gauge the “conceptual” distance between the planets based on the number of footsteps they had to travel between them. For example, children had to travel four footsteps from the sun to mercury, two footsteps from Mercury to to Venus and so on. Although we did mention astronomical units as the measurement astronomers use to talk about the distances between the planets, I don’t think that fact mattered as much to the children; they were having too much fun exploring and learning in their own way.
After a trip through our solar system we focused on the Moon! The Moon isn’t a planet but it is a satellite that revolves around our Earth! Since we can actually see the moon in all its phases, it seemed only fair that we pay it a bit more attention.
Children were given the opportunity to paint their vision of the moon and the stars using black and white tempera paint, black/brown construction paper and some scrunched up aluminum foil (a little space age touch).
Then we talked about the craters on the surface of the Moon! Children got the chance to make their own cratered moon surface using Crayola air dry clay. They were also given a little American flag to place on their cratered piece of the Moon (think Neil Armstrong). Since the clay and paint were a bit messy, we had pails of water and dish washing soap on hand to clean little hands.
Air dry clay takes a day or two to harden so the parents/caregivers were given a bit of black and white tempera to help their children paint the crater at home.
Some children bypassed the crafts to look at the models of the planets up close. They also enjoyed looking at the “moon rocks” we had on display!
We’re taking a break in December but we’ll back in January 2020 for more Preschool STEAM adventures! Hope you’ll join us on the fourth Monday of the month from 10:30-11:30 a.m. at Central Library.