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Program Design, Development, and Quality

Look Up! Space-based Science in Afterschool


With the New Year comes a time of reflection and renewal.

With it comes celebrations of past accomplishments, and thoughts for new directions.

We all want what’s best for our kids, to give them skills to succeed in life.

Have you considered offering experiences that can develop your youths’ observational skills and natural ability to wonder? Afterschool is a wonderful place for kids to develop basic life skills – and this can have an even stronger impact when it sparks their interest in the world around them and helps them to say “Wow, I CAN do this!”

Kids love space!

Consider adopting space-based science and engineering afterschool programming. Freaked out by the thought? Good STEM programming enables the program leaders to be a “guide on the side” instead of a “sage on the stage”. A key ability for doing science as in art, in life, and in many occupations – is good observational skills. Science is not a collection of facts, but starts with observing and wondering.

Developing observational skills using space themes can be simple – just look up!

It’s dark during the late afterschool time in the winter, why not look up at the sky?


Image of the moon from the International Space Station.

Too many city lights where you are, so you can’t see stars? You can see the moon – day or night! Have the kids look for it for a couple of weeks – what do you notice? What is similar each time you look? What is different? Is it in the same place at the same time every night? Can you see it during the day? Does it have the same shape each time you see it?

Do you notice any patterns? What does that lead you to wonder: What’s it like there? Why do we want to go there and other places beyond earth? How do we get there? Pick some “wonders” that your youth have, and brainstorm ways to look for answers, then support them in looking. (You don’t have to know the answers, just guide the students in where to look, such as the library, teachers, and the internet, for example visit this site).

Kids may hunger for more, and that’s where NASA comes in.

The exploration of space is alive and well, with robotic explorer spacecraft – right now – visiting other worlds, from orbiters around the moon, to the Curiosity Rover on Mars, to the first spacecraft to fly by distant Pluto. These are exciting and current real-world examples of science, math, engineering, and technology! Consider these accessible and fun space-themed, hands-on, project-based afterschool activity guides and professional development opportunities from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

We feature the excitement of space science and exploration through experimentation, through design and build of models, through literacy and art, and even through kids contributing their “citizen science” observations to help scientists look at real data from other worlds!

kids at nasa-space-based-learning

Kids show their models of a comet, made from cotton-ball and pipe-cleaners.

Don’t know how to get started implementing STEM in afterschool?

There is some great work being done in California to support your program – all we need is you!

Experiment to find what sparks interest and passion in your kids – and in yourself – and find yourself looking up and saying along with your kids “Wow, I CAN do this!”

My breakfast was greek yogurt with fresh berries, a banana, decaf coffee, and a big glass of water – light and healthy to feed my enthusiasm for observing the world around me – and the wonders of the beautiful sky that we all share!

Author Profile: @leslielowes

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