Many children enjoy playing with rocket ships. Flying saucers, space shuttles and moon rovers appeal to a child's imagination. Use a space-vehicle project to teach about the space program, other planets, and to offer guidance about the differences between fictional space travel and fact. Making spacecraft projects allows children to ask questions about space, UFOs, and the idea of alien life forms. Space themes also encourage kids to read.
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Paper plates, cardboard boxes and foil make simple flying saucer materials. A paper dessert plate taped upside down to a circle of cardboard works as a flying saucer. The kids can put them together and cover them with foil. Give the kids stickers, felt, or marking pens to create windows and lights.
The University of Texas website on so-called flying saucers provides some good pictures of reported UFOs. These images provide a good starting place for a discussion of space travel and the difference between facts and rumours.
Cardboard paper towel tubes, construction paper and coloured cardboard work well to for constructing rocket ships. Glossy white self-adhesive shelf paper helps create an effect similar to the finish on space station rockets.
Older children can cut slits in one end of the tube and insert curved supports cut from coloured cardboard to support the rocket in launch position. Children of all ages can paste construction paper around the cardboard tube and add windows and lights.
Bringing in books featuring the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's spacecraft offers an opportunity to discuss the American space program in connection to making space vehicles. Ask questions to explore what the kids know about how vehicles designed to leave the earth's atmosphere work. Offer them a chance to make spacecraft that separate after launching.
Winged Spacecraft and Rovers
Modelling clay in a variety of colour makes fun spacecraft projects. Children can model gliders with wings or rockets in one colour of clay, and use other colours of clay to add side stripes and other details. Toy wheels and small boxes work for constructing rovers for exploring the surfaces of other planets. Use wheel sets from broken toys or from craft stores, or buy trucks from a dollar store to use for their wheels.
You can help the children put the axle through the cardboard box so that the vehicle will roll. Most toy wheels come apart by pulling off one tire. Use a hole-punch to make a hole in each side of the cardboard box to put the axle through. Give the children holographic or metallic paper to cover the boxes, and glow-in-the-dark stickers to use as headlights.
Science programs on exploring the moon and other planets or books with pictures of moon landings provide inspiration for children to imagine these vehicles in use.
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