Stop thinking about art works as objects, and start thinking about them as triggers for experiences.” – Brian Eno.
Come explore space with us!
Art can be a powerful medium to engage children in learning, support wondering and understanding, and promote memory and competence! See for yourself as we wonder, explore and learn more about rocket ships, based on the children’s interests and questions about space!
Our art group seemed to have learned much about space in preschool. The children had many questions about becoming astronauts and how to properly imitate floating through space when your’e pretending to be an astronaut! We decided to read more books, and watched a few videos about space and astronauts to answer some of the children’s comments, and questions like:
“How does a rocket get up into space?”
“How do astronauts get back to Earth?”
“Why can WE not float though space like astronauts?”
“How do astronauts shower?”
“Do astronauts have muscles?”
“Why is space black?”
Ummm… ? Some of the 5 year old children wanted very detailed answers to all their questions while most of the younger children were satisfied seeing an astronaut shower in space, or seeing a water drop float through the space station without needing to know WHY it does that. In case you need some information yourself to answer your children’s questions, here is what we learned:
- We observed that the sun is the biggest and heaviest object in our solar system, and therefore has the biggest pull (gravity) on all the other planets which keep circling around it (and the moon in orbit of earth etc.).
- We discovered that we are tiny compared to the mass of our earth which keeps us on the ground, and that the earth’s mass draws things to it when they drop. This is why space ships need such big rockets to get off the ground!
- We watched Apollo 15 astronaut David Scott drop a feather and a hammer on the moon, and compared it with us dropping the same objects here on earth. The pull of the earth becomes weaker the farther we’re out in space which is why astronauts float in space and don’t fall back down to earth. We also played a game, standing up tall with our arms lifted up high in the air, and I’d say an object (toy etc.) we pretend to drop and whether we drop it being on the earth or moon. If I’d drop it on the moon, our arms would go down very slowly until they reach the floor; if I’d drop our object on the earth our arms and bodies would plop down to earth as quickly as possible.
- We also learned that the earth has a blanket of air we can breath (our atmosphere), and that the light of the stars takes many years to travel which is the reasons it’s dark on the moon and why astronauts have to wear helmets to breath.
… so many complex questions to answer! With our mixed aged Pre-K art group (imaginations running wild!), much input, and many questions left, we needed an outlet to process, learn more and make sense of all we heard about space… so we got creative making, printing, playing, building and sculpting our own rockets, spaceships, astronauts, and international space stations!
- Scratch Foam (or any other styrofoam e.g. white foam take out containers or foam plates from the grocery store), cut to your desired size
- Tempera paint, black (for a clearer image use real printing ink)
- Brayer (or a foam brush or thick paint brush)
- Tray or plate for rolling out the paint
- Dull pencils
- Drawing clipboards
- Liquid watercolors
- Cups and paintbrushes
- Watercolor paper & normal drawing paper
- Printouts / photos of rocket ships
- Optional for making a hanger: Beads and wire
- Optional for building rocket ships: school glue, scissors, pre-cut cardboard shapes, loose collage parts (sequins, pompoms, foam shapes, pipe cleaners…), any cardboard, tubes and containers you have might have on hand, low temp-glue guns, air dry clay etc.
Step 1: Draw rocket ships!
You can set out drawing clipboards, and print out pictures of various rocket ships. Invite the children to inspect the different rocket ships (which might lead to more questions, wondering, and learning) and let them draw their own rocket ships – however way they want. Drawing on the clipboards made this extra exciting!
Some children got really lost in drawing details, fascinated by the big engines, booster rockets, and space shuttles that blast off on the back of another rocket to get further into space, away from earth’s pull… further wondering and memorizing what we learned about rocket ships.
Some children clipped one of the printed rocket ship pictures under their own paper and started tracing some of the details before before adding their own. Other children drew family house rocket ships with mommy and daddy astronauts, processing their family dynamics etc.
Step 2: Make a printing plate!
After drawing rocket ships we transferred our images onto styrofoam printing plates: Tape each child’s drawing onto either side of the scratch foam and let the children trace their rocket ships using a dull pencil, pressing down rather hard.
Remove the drawing and retrace the lines once more, creating deep grooves on the scratch foam (ask the children to run their fingertips over the styrofoam to check if they can feel all lines!).
Tip: Younger children can draw their rocket ship directly onto styrofoam, or you can provide cut out rocket ship shapes for them to add marks to with their pencils (our Pre-K art group ages range from 2.5 – 6 years old… sometimes we offer more sensory art projects, other times we offer more advanced topics, materials and techniques to be able to accommodate everyone).
Step 3: Paint a background!
Mix water with just a few drops of liquid watercolors in a cup. Add a paintbrush to each cup, place the cups in a tray to prevent spilling, and set out individual trays with watercolor paper. Invite the children to paint their whole papers with the watercolors, using one watercolor at a time. Remind the children to put their color back in the middle of the table when they want to use another one.
Talk about friendship and sharing: Refresh how we can ask each other kindly for turns, or how we can ask each other to trade colors!
While painting simply observe, comment and ask questions about what the children are doing. Focus on the process, the experience and the exploration of the materials rather than the finished product. Point out how the colors mix, how the paper soaks up the watercolors.
Bonus: We added glow-in the dark dots to make stars with q-tips and glow-in the dark acrylic paint before printing our space rockets!
Step 4: Print!
Since printing can get messy (especially when you’re using real printing ink) I prefer to print with one child at a time. I cut out the children’s rocket ships and usually invite a small group of children to print with me, one by one, while everyone else is playing (…waving the brayer around I never, ever had a child that didn’t want to make a print!).
You can squeeze a small amount of printing ink or tempera paint onto one side of a tray or plate. Let the child roll the brayer back and forth until the brayer is evenly coated with paint.
Then roll the brayer over your styrofoam printing plate until it is fully covered in paint.
Position your scratch foam over your watercolor paper and press down firmly to print. Gently rub over the foam with your fingers to transfer your picture. You can also position your paper over the foam, press down and rub over it to print. Pull up the paper to reveal your print!
Our styrofoam printing plates looked so pretty by themselves we wanted to display them! You can hole punched yours and let the children add beads onto a wire to make a hanger.
Yay to art activities that encourage playful learning! Needless to say, the children all want to be astronauts when they grow up! We played space shuttle for a week, involving multiple props (building blocks, fabric tubes, and hand drawn control panels taped to every surface of our room), including everything we know, have learned, heard and seen about rocket ships!
Build rocket ships!
During play the children asked if we can build a real rocket ship. I’m not a rocket scientist (and we already transformed all our cardboard boxes into rocket ships!) so I did what every other art teacher would do: Set out glue and pre-cut cardboard shapes, loose collage parts, any tubes and container you have might have on hand, low temp-glue guns, left over air dry clay, and invite the children to build their own rocket ships! Show how to handle the low-temp glue gun safely – no other instructions were needed!
Watch as rocket ships and astronauts, space heroes and aliens come to life while you’re providing much freedom to explore and create, support problem solving, and innovative thinking, and even MORE talk about space and rocket ships :)!