My friend Stephanie's mother is a teacher in a kindergarten class, and right now they're learning about space. On Friday, Stephanie and I went to class to help with a project. They had just learned about Mars rovers and how they have to take fragile equipment and land safely on the planet. Their project was to build something to hold an egg and then drop it about 20 feet without the egg breaking. They had styrofoam, packing peanuts, bubble wrap, empty water bottles and duct tape. In my group, which had 5 kids, each of them had an idea they were really excited about or an item they wanted to use, so ours ended up being all of those things taped together, with the egg wrapped in bubble wrap and placed in the middle. One little girl told me more than once that "this is just a test, so it's ok if our egg breaks... and even if it was a contest, its still ok." One little boy insisted that the big piece of styrofoam he wanted to use (clearly the heaviest item we were using) should be the parachute. We had a fun time building, and then we went and dropped the contraptions we'd built with the egg inside. Nobody's egg broke, which was pretty excited - I was a little nervous.
After the project, we went back to the classroom and they told us some of the facts they had learned. These 5-year-olds knew the name of the first person in space (Yuri Gagarin), the name of the first American in space (Alan Shepard if you count sub-orbital, John Glenn otherwise), the names of all three Apollo 11 crew members (Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins). They even knew some of Newtons Laws ("If you put something somewhere, it stays where it is unless acted on by a force.") It was pretty cute.
Then Stephanie and I told some space stories. Stephanie explained what it was like being at the shuttle launch in Florida last month, and I told a bit about the design of the International Space Station and how there is no up and down in space, so you can walk into a room and see someone else standing on the ceiling or the wall. They seemed to enjoy that.
Overall, very fun day - it's so fun to work with kids and see how excited they get about space!