Education Blog

Journey Back to the Moon

Astronaut floating in space


Did you know that NASA plans to journey back to the moon in 2020?  NASA has a goal to build an outpost on the moon and have teams of astronauts live there for six months or more.  In order to achieve this, NASA engineers will send several robotic missions to the moon to identify good landing sites, measure temperature, lighting, dust, and radiation levels, and look for useful resources such as minerals and ice. NASA recognizes that today’s students are the future engineers, scientists, and astronauts of tomorrow. NASA and PBS Design Squad have collaborated to bring hands-on engineering activities and the adventure of space exploration to life for kids in grades three through eight. Each of these lessons are supported with media clips and resources available by the Illinois Edition of PBS LearningMedia.

WILL has partnered with the Champaign Park District Leonhard Center to guide teens in their summer camp through On the Moon, a space-engineering curriculum sponsored by NASA and PBS Design Squad. On the Moon offers six hands-on challenges that bring engineering and NASA’s moon missions to life for kids. The challenges take one to two hours each, use readily available materials, give kids many ways to succeed, and can be done with large or small student groups. This curriculum also meets many of the national science, technology, and mathematics standards.

After three weeks of this six-week curriculum, we have learned how to launch an air-powered rocket, build a moon-landing machine, and construct a moon rover-that actually moves!  We still have three sessions left where we will build a crane to lift heavy materials, construct a zip line to deliver materials on a target, and lastly learn how to heat water up with the use of electricity. These are all vital tests that NASA has been conducting to make sure that astronauts can survive on the moon. 

As a former teacher, I highly recommend PBS Design Squad programs for afterschool programs, classrooms, and summer camps. The curriculum is easily structured, student friendly and can be offered with little to minimal cost. The students and I have had a great time and I look forward to what the remaining three lessons will bring. The excitement and joy that the students express when they complete their engineering tasks each week is immeasurable and I look forward to bringing these same activities to other programs and schools in our coverage area.