Astrophilia Initiative - Tailoring Age-Appropriate Activities

Tailoring age-appropriate activities that are suitable for our Astrophilia events can present interesting challenges to ensure that a designated topic resonates with all age groups. Our agenda that addresses long distance voyages in Space suggests to elementary school students that they pack a “virtual suitcase” to allow them to think about what items they would pack for their interstellar trip, and why they would choose them. Assuming that they have had travel experiences on Earth, this activity would allow them to compare and contrast travel on Earth with travel in Space. Middle school students would engage in a higher level of critical thinking by considering what items they would be able to fit in their space vehicle, as well as how it should be loaded to avoid weight and balance issues. This middle school version would incorporate a mathematics component similar to airline pilots calculating their weight and balance prior to takeoff. High school students would investigate how to choose the supplies that would be needed for the process of interplanetary settlement or colonization. Since these supplies would obviously not all fit on the human transport ship, students will be faced with considering the challenges of sustainability, and how to continue to meet their survival needs of food, clothing and shelter.

Distance = Speed x Time problems tended to be the bane of student’s existence in math classes; however giving them an “upgrade,” where they involve the calculation of asteroid crashes, and the resulting shock waves may more effectively garner and maintain students’ interest. This math challenge activity would also provide an opportunity to present NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission which was designed to test a method of deflecting an asteroid for planetary defense using the “kinetic impactor” strategy.