World Space Week Unit Study (with Printables!)

World Space Week is a great chance to learn more about something still mostly unknown to humankind: the universe!  We love the idea of utilizing World Space Week as a platform for astronomy-based science studies. This could even be a fun time for a visit to the Kennedy Space Center!  To help, we’ve put together a bunch of information about outer space for a comprehensive unit study.  So, if your kiddos love learning about the stars, or even if they have yet to discover the wonder of the galaxies, let’s grab our telescopes and have some fun together!

The History Behind World Space Week

Let’s start by asking the obvious question: why is there a week dedicated to space?  World Space Week was created as a way to commemorate two significant space-related events in 1999.  The United Nations declared October 4th through October 10th as World Space Week in recognition of the first human-made satellite that launched on October 4, 1957 — Sputnik!  Sputnik paved the way for space exploration by taking the first tentative journey. Further, ten years later on October 10, 1967, The Outer Space Treaty went into effect.  The Outer Space Treaty, also known as the United Nations Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, was signed on that date to encourage space exploration.  The Treaty is the foundation of international space law!

World Space Week is all about supporting space studies, as well as educating the public about the universe and our galaxy or solar system in particular.  To gather interest, there are usually several activities, programs, and games released for World Space Week by NASA, the United Nations, and the World Space Week Association.  There are several organizations globally, including schools, clubs, museums, libraries, and more!

This international celebration brings together nations, as well as science and technology.  The main focus of studies and programs during World Space Week is to explore how studying outer space directly leads to human betterment and appreciation of our reality.  It’s a sad fact that the space program has been limited, and World Space Week aims to show the public interest and desire for greater space exploration, knowledge, and even the consideration of possible options that lay within space for economic development.

The World Space Week Association is not led by any one government or entity.  It is a collaboration of national coordinators in over 50 countries. The Board of Directors is purely volunteer-based, including popular celebrities such as Buzz Aldrin, Tom Hanks, Bill Nye, Elon Musk, and more.  In 2018, more than 80 countries celebrated World Space Week with the theme: “Space Unites the World.”  

The theme for 2019’s World Space Week is, “The Moon: Gateway to the Stars.”  This year, the world will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and humankind’s first step on the moon!

Why Is It Important to Study Outer Space?

It can be easy to dismiss the importance of studying the stars.  After all, how do they directly affect us? You may be surprised to discover how much outer space and astronomy affects science and the world we live in.  It’s important to take care of our planet, but our world does not exist in a vacuum. It is guided and influenced by our solar system and the other planetary bodies within it.  Not only can a space study encourage interest in this fascinating subject, but it can give greater awareness and perspective of both the fragility and strength of our world.

As far as we know, Earth is the only planet with life.  The great majority of organisms on earth, including ourselves as humans and our own loving pets, need a proper supply of oxygen and water to survive.  When we study space, we learn how limited this supply is for the living conditions we need, which impresses our need to take care of what we have. Our planet is special — and a space study reveals that!

There are several logical reasons to study and explore space.  NASA and our own government in the U.S. have made many statements about the benefits of the space program in terms of national security, scientific discovery, and economic benefit.  However, there are many more, less tangible, reasons to study outer space. These reasons are probably the most compelling, but the least mentioned since they can’t be analyzed on a chart or defined by numbers.

  • Curiosity.  Curiosity drives many actions, and a simple underlying basis to space exploration is the fact that we are curious about what is out there.  What surrounds our world, our home? At our roots as humans, we are explorers.
  • Technology.  Without space programs, we wouldn’t even have GPS — and most of us will attest to its importance in our daily lives.  Without technology created thanks to space studies, we wouldn’t have as accurate weather information and prevention. Without space programs, we wouldn’t even have ultraviolet filters for our glasses.
  • Asteroids, Solar Flares, & Comets.  Space programs, observation, telescopes, and satellites help make us aware of potential dangers to our planet.  It’s possible for rogue asteroids or objects to damage our world — but space observation may give us a chance to prepare, and possibly even save our planet.
  • Space Mining.  When governments mention the possibility of economic benefit, this includes the potential for gathering abundant natural resources found in space.  Our resources are being depleted, but space provides an option for sustainability.
  • Pushing Boundaries.  It is fundamentally human to push our boundaries.  Pushing these boundaries results in discoveries that have led to new technologies, medicine, and procedures to prolong life and the quality of that life, among other accomplishments.  Without humans pushing boundaries, we wouldn’t be living in the 21st century with the modern conveniences that many of us enjoy.

10 Fun Facts for World Space Week

What is a unit study without a few fun facts?  World Space Week explores how the cosmos benefits our daily lives, as well as searches for the greater meaning of life and our universe itself.  It’s scientific, philosophical, and emotional. The space programs are a source of great pride for many people and a deep fascination for others.  The research into space and its mysteries provide a livelihood for innumerable people around the world, let alone in the United States.  

Finally, World Space Week is not just a fun week to learn more about space and bring greater awareness of its importance.  World Space Week is a time for the world to come together, forget their divisions and differences, and to focus on the one thing we are curious about, the one thing that is a question to us all: space.  Regardless of our location, background, or privilege, we are all merely humans gazing up at the stars.

  • Water ice has been found throughout the solar system.  Though water ice was once considered a rare find in space, it has been spotted on the moon, in Mercury’s shadowed craters, at Mars’s poles, and in the smaller moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
  • Spacecraft have visited each planet.  Did you know that NASA has sent spacecraft to each planet in our solar system, including the dwarf planets Pluto and Ceres?  We’ve been exploring long enough now to have firsthand information about each planet!
  • Mercury is shrinking.  Metrics sent by the MESSENGER spacecraft have revealed that tectonic plates have shifted within Mercury and the planet is slowly shrinking.  For several years, scientists believed that Earth was the only tectonically active planet in our system, but that changed as of 2016 thanks to the data by MESSENGER.
  • Extreme microbes have been discovered.  Microbes are considered a form of life that can survive in some of the harshest environments.  These microbes have been found on Mars and due to the presence of water ice on several moons and other planets, astronomers to wonder whether these microbes could exist elsewhere in our solar system.
  • Pluto used to be geologically active.  Thanks to photos sent back from Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft in 2015, scientists learned that Pluto has numerous mountains reaching up to 11,000 feet tall.  These mountains and the uneven terrain suggests geological activity in the past, but the source of that activity continues to stump astronomers.
  • Neutron stars can rotate up to 60 times per second.  Neutrons stars form from supernovae (dying stars that collapsed on themselves), which gives them the incredible energy to spin so quickly.  Apparently, under the right circumstances, they can even spin up to 600 times per second.
  • The astronauts’ footprints on the moon remain.  The moon lacks an atmosphere, which means there doesn’t exist any wind or weather to erode their footprints.  Those footprints will likely remain on the moon for the foreseeable future.
  • The sun takes up 99% of our solar system’s mass. The sun is so dense that it accounts for most of the solar system’s mass; which is exactly how it dominates the planets and conducts the gravitational orbit.
  • Saturn is not the only planet with rings.  Rings have been spotted on all of the outer planets in our solar system in addition to Saturn.  This includes Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune. The rings vary greatly per planet and none are as spectacular as Saturn’s, but the rings are present nonetheless.  Rings have even been spotted on the asteroid Chariklo!
  • The sun provides the earth with more energy in one hour than it could use in one year.  In comparison to the solar energy provided by the sun, Earth uses a shockingly small amount.  The use of solar energy has been increasing by 20-30% each year for the past 15 years or so, but it still only accounts for 0.7% of the world’s annual electricity usage.

5 Space Activities for Kids

One of the best aspects of homeschooling is being able to make nearly every study as hands-on and fun as possible.  Let’s not just read about space, let’s enjoy a few activities to learn more about space by having fun! Beyond visiting a museum, such as the Air and Space Museum, or building your own spaceship from a LEGO kit, here are our top 5 favorite activities you could do with your kids to help them learn through natural curiosity and wonder.

  • Visit a planetarium.  
    • Planetariums are a fantastic way to show your kids how amazing our solar system and the universe is!  Planetariums often have shows, tours, and hands-on exhibits, which work well for all learning types! Your kids will likely have a blast learning about comets, asteroids, planets, and more.
  • Prepare for explosive fun with this fizzing planets science project!
    • Your kids will love creating these planets that fizz and melt away.
  • Create these flashlight constellation discs.
    • Learn about the constellations by recreating them at home!
  • Make a nebula jar.
    • This is so pretty and a fun idea for your space-loving kiddos.
  • Match the moon phases with Oreos!
    • I love that this is fun, educational, and delicious!  Cleanup has never been tastier.

Additionally, we have a couple spelling lists for you!  As homeschoolers, we like to make everything into learning moments when possible, and that includes learning how to spell.

World Space Week Printables!

Finally, we have several printables for you to enjoy at home.  Complete your space unit study this week with these puzzles, flash cards, coloring sheets, and more!  Unit studies are all about well-rounded learning that touches on nearly every aspect of a subject, from multiple perspectives and learning styles.  That includes facts, activities, and hands-on opportunities–such as with printables!  Enjoy!

In the end, World Space Week is all about encouraging children, teenagers, and young adults to take an interest in science, astronomy, technology, and math.  By demonstrating the wonder of outer space and its impacts on us as humans, as well as the unknown, perhaps more young people will be intrigued with the possibility of pursuing these careers, such as aerospace engineering.  The world needs more young scientists looking to push boundaries, explore, think outside the box, and stay passionate about their pursuits. The world needs scientists and astronomers like homeschoolers!

Resources:

Images for flashcards from NASA, ESA, and Steve Jurvetson