Reading books about the moon, animals in space and what it takes to be a real astronaut have inspired questions and imaginative scenarios for the children to explore during play. They want to know everything about our solar system and the equipment and people that explore it. The classroom is packed to gills with different ways for the children to explore space: space art, space play dough, space dress up and an entire space room that has evolved out of their play.
Some children are more interested in astronauts and space travel. They excitedly share whether they’d like to be an engineer who fixes the space equipment, a pilot who gets to fly the space shuttle, or a scientist who does experiments in outer space to learn more about our universe. Some children even pretend to be the subjects of some of these experiments, which is why there are so many space-dogs running around. The block room is a perfect example of how the children are taking all the new information they are learning and allowing it to inspire their play. Everyday they build a rocket ship, demand that the lights be turned off and the curtains drawn. They wear headlamps and bang away on keyboards while they pretend to navigate through space.
This is also a wonderful place for cooperation, compromise and practice in working together. As you can imagine the space room can get crowded and it is up to the children to decide who will take on what role, how materials will be delegated and how they will design the space for that day. It is not an easy task and with many conversations, decisions and appeals… the kids are able to make the small area work for all those that want to be included.
Other children are more interested in information seeking. They scour our non-fiction book collection asking teachers to read about various planets, moons, solar storms, nebulae and all things space. At nap time AD and ER create an information center around their mats where they lay out all their books and put post-it notes on all the pages they want a teacher to read later. At choice time you can find children furiously creating planets of their own. Sometimes these are recreations of planets we’ve learned about, a dusty, red, Mars or a brown swirl of gas like Jupiter. Other children opt for a more imaginative route and use the facts they’ve learned about the solar system to invent their own planets. ZP created Pizza Planet that was made only of gas and, you guessed it… pizza. RT made Planet Planet, which was a planet that consisted entirely of other planets, inspired by a new fact that Jupiter is so large it could hold all the other planets inside it. As the children learn, create and ask questions we add to the space room, posting their work and other inspiring images to facilitate their inquisitive play.
As the children are already realizing, there is no place like Earth (that we know of) and we will be diving a little deeper to explore its uniqueness and the uniqueness of the other planets. More to come on where the children lead us!