The summer break is a great opportunity to extend kids’ learning beyond their traditional core curriculum experience at school. And in 2020, the pandemic means many favorite summer activities might not be available. But, it’s still a great time to encourage your child’s love of science and space exploration. Luckily, NASA and other organizations around the world have made a wealth of resources freely available to any teacher or parent.
Through a program called STEM @ Home, NASA provides a wide variety of activities, organized by grade level. The Code a Mars Helicopter Video Game challenge is perfect for 7th graders, and a STEM @ Home essay contest actually led to the new Mars rover, Perseverance, being named by a 7th grader! NASA at Home for Kids and Families is also a great resource for virtual tours, augmented reality apps, and more home learning.
And though it may be closed during the pandemic, the Space Center in Houston has plenty of digital resources for students, including a "Try This at Home" section. Space Station Explorers hosts a variety of education programs, and a quick search reveals 15 FREE programs for middle school students and 13 Learn-at-Home programs… some resources are perfect for a summer of lock down, including the virtual Mission to The ISS. (If you’ve got an Oculus Quest, don’t miss the Mission ISS VR app either!)
Space Exploration is a global effort, and so is space education. The European Space Agency (ESA) provides a site full of learning activities at ESA Kids. Some are targeted at younger students, but some make great introductory activities for middle school students. The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) also has some interesting resources for students and teachers, including a Teacher's Guide to Plant Experiments in Micro Gravity! And speaking of global efforts, it’s not too late to join the Global Space Balloon Challenge in August!
And, of course, if you're interested in a school (or supplemental program) where kids can learn like this during the school year, check out what ARES Learning has to offer.