Thursday, July 15, 2010

A is for Alien: A Unit Study on Space

At the library this week, Marcus asked to get some books out about aliens. 
I did a quick search and found stumbled upon two titles that we really enjoyed.  I ended up turning this into a light unit study.

Updated: 11/10/2010 with more ideas!  

Fun Read-Alouds:

The first book we read was Alien Invasion written and illustrated by 7 year old Benjamin Kendall.
 Alien Invasions
When I first checked this book out, I had no idea that it was written by a little kid.  However, I have to say that Benjamin Kendall is one awesome kid!  This book had me chuckling from beginning to end.  It is not outright funny, but it has this subtle type of humor that I found extremely enjoyable to read.
The story was a great one, and Marcus asked me to read it to him about 9 times this week!   I also couldn't get over his illustrations.  I am 30 and can't draw near as well as Benjamin at 7! 

The second book we checked out was Alistair and the Alien Invasion.
 Alistair and the Alien Invasion
This was another great find.  The kids both enjoyed this story and I read it multiple times too this week.  This book also had my chuckling.  My favorite part is the illustration of Alistair ironing his socks before he leaves for space.

For history, we read Aliens are Coming!
Aliens Are Coming!: The True Account Of The 1938 War Of The Worlds Radio Broadcast
This is a true account of the 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast written for children.  This book did a great job describing what life was like in 1938 and role that radio played in society. 

After reading our alien books, I remembered seeing a Alien Letter craft on the blog No Time for Flashcards.  So I quickly pulled out all of the stuff to make it and Marcus made an Alien shaped letter A.
First I drew an A on a piece of construction paper and he painted it.
Without any prompting from me, I noticed that he was just naturally tracing the shape of a letter A with his paint brush.  This is what the "A" looked like when he was finished. 
After that we cut out the A and pasted it to another sheet of paper.  Then we added some eyes, a mouth, and antenna.  It turned out very cute I think!
I then asked him if he wanted to add the page to the alphabet book he is making.    (More about the alphabet book in another post.) However, he said that he wanted to use it to pretend to be an alien.

I told him that we could do better than that...we could make actual Alien Masks!!!  This wasn't a craft project I planned.  I just happened to remember that we had some things on hand that would work for alien masks. This is one of the reasons I like to have lots of generic craft supplies on hand.  Sometimes they make for very enjoyable impromptu projects like this.  And things always feel so much more natural when they are child-led and driven.  As opposed to some huge, planed out thing that I try to get the child excited about doing.

So, what did I have on hand?  

Well, Michael's (one of my favorite places in the world to shop) has this aisle of paint-able items that are made out of very thick and heavy card-stock.  They have full sized swords, crowns, animals, dinosaurs, feet...all sorts of things made out of card-stock.  They usually come in packs of 6-12, and they are fairly inexpensive.  I often stock up on these just to have around the house when I need a craft project for the kids to do.  You can paint them, color them, decorate them with jewels, glitter, decoupage, name it.

I actually have an entire bin that is labeled "paper things for the kids to paint".  You can see my stash here.

Well, one of the things that we have are masks.  (You can see them sitting on top in the picture.)  Again, I wasn't exactly sure what I would do with these when I bought them.   I will tell you one thing, I didn't expect that we would turn them into aliens!

This was an open-ended art project that the kids totally made and designed themselves.   I put the following supplies out on the table for them to use as they wanted.

1)  Blank card-stock masks (availabe at Michael's)
2)  Purple and Green paint
3)  A bowl of Googly Eyes
4)  Teeth cut out of craft foam left over from our Aligator art project
5)  Craft feathers
6)  Pipe Cleaners  (antenna?)
7)  Paint brushes
8)  School Glue

I love watching my kids at work.  This is one of the reasons I love open ended projects like this.  I love to observe how they each interact with the supplies given.  This is what I observed as they were working with the various supplies:

Well, after I laid out the green and purple paint the first thing Marcus did was ask for blue and red paint.  I said, "Aren't aliens green?"  He said, "No, I want a blue alien".  So I gave him some blue and red paint.  Shortly after Sophia said, "I want blue!"  So we had two blue aliens.  :)

Marcus also wanted to paint his aliens mouth red.  However, it gave his alien a very scary look because it kind of looks like blood!  I don't think that was his intention...although maybe it was!  

Marcus made a neat row of eyes on the forehead of his alien.  
Sophia used every remaining googly eye in the bowl to cover her alien.  (Seriously!  She used up the supply of googly eyes!)

Sophia added feathers, but only two, and only to one side of her alien's head.
Marcus didn't want any feathers on his alien.

Pipe Cleaners:
Neither child attempted to use pipe cleaners in their design.

Each child certainly wanted their alien to have lots of sharp teeth! 

After our masks dried we danced around in them and played alien for quite awhile.
Marcus and Sophia also thought it would be fun to jump out and scare Daddy with the masks when he got home from work.  I swear I had nothing to do with giving them that idea!  ;) Poor Doug! alien lost an eye.  Luckly she has many back ups!

Sensory Exploration:
For sensory exploration we played with moon sand.  Moon sand is a great material that even adults love to play with.  It has a really cool consistency.  It is like sand that can be molded and hold its shape.  The con is that it can be quite expensive.  Here is a great moon sand recipe that you can make from home.
Moon Sand Two-Pack 10 Oz Space Blue & 10 Oz Galaxy Green
To make a sensory box for play, I suggest adding in some minature space toys and astronauts. 

Other ideas for sensory play are to provide white playdough(This is my favorite play dough recipe.)  Have your child roll the dough into a ball and use an eraser tip to create moon creators.  For even more fun, put out your miniture astronauts and spaceships and have them explore the moon.  Add rocks (astroids) and have those crash into the planets and smash them.  (Can you tell I have a little boy?!) 

Nature Study:  Make a Lunar Calendar
An easy thing for preschoolers to observe in space is the moon.  Take the kids outside at night and have them observe the shape of the moon throughout the month.  Have them draw the shape of the moon and create their own lunar calendar.  DLTK has a some great ideas that makes it possible for even little kids to re-create the shapes of the moon that they observe. 

Making Learning Fun also has some nice moon sequencing cards that can be used to reinforce your observations. 

Other Science Ideas:
With our local preschool co-op, we took the kids outside and we built a scale model of our solar system using various balls as props.  This really gives the kids an idea of how large our solar system is.  We used a 16 foot wide sun made out of old yellow sheets sewn together.  For the rest of the planets we used various balls that were aproximatly the correct diameter.  If you want to replicate this experiment at home, you can use this cool calculator to determine the sizes and distances of your "to scale" model. 

We also had some Montessori math items on our shelves this week.

We used star counting cards and mini star erasers. The kids identify the number and then count out the appropriate number of start erasers for each number. 

We also used these rocket counting cards.  With these cards, the child counts the stars and then puts a clothes pin on the correct number.  The kids didn't seem to be very interested in these, so we will probably put these out until they are a bit older. 

Field Trip:
We happen to live near an AWESOME children's science museum that has a space exhibit.  If you don't have something like that, you could take your kids to visit a planetarium.

However, even if you don't have any of those things, how wonderful would it be to just take the kids out at night and star gaze.  Talk about making memories!  How special would it be to stay up late one night and just gaze at the stars together. 

Go-Along Books to Put on the Reserve List:

Other links to become Attached to:
The  Ultimate Alphabet Craft Collection for the Letter A.
STart (A Story + Art)
Tot School (See what other toddlers are doing)
Preschool Corner (See what other preschoolers are doing)
Paint the Moon with Puffy "Moon Paint"
Making Learning Fun (a host of Space related ideas for learning!)
Kid Soup Space Ideas (this is a subscription only site.  However, you can get a free trial.)  
More Books About Space

Thanks for reading!!


Jenny said...

Wow, I think I'm going to make a trip to Michael's tomorrow. Thanks for all of the great ideas. I looked, and my library has the 2nd title but not the first - bummer.

Raising a Happy Child said...

I enjoyed reading this post very much and learning how the whole activity was entirely kid-driven - from selecting the subject to creating their very own masks. I am also addicted to Michael's - I think I am getting something there every week. Maybe masks will be next :)

JDaniel4's Mom said...

I love your alien masks. It looks like you children loved them too.

Tony said...

Glad to see that Marcus is an Indians fan.
Love, Grandpa

Elise said...

I have just come over from JDaniel4's Mom blog where your ultimate alphabet craft collection was mentioned. We have just started our alphabet adventures and I have linked to lowercase "a" with an "a" is for astronaut and an uppercase "A" with our "A" is for acrobat craft and our "S" is for super silly slippery slide. Within each of these links I also have a downloadable resource on my blog that we used to help familiarise my daughter with the letter.

The alien masks turned out so well - I like how your children came up with their own ways to use the resources you supplied to create wonderfully different aliens.

I also have a very well stocked craft cupboard thanks to my inability to pass a craft store without popping in and buying something!!

kewkew said...

Cute Alien A. Thanks for the book suggestions.
I have an award for you over at my blog, come on over;


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