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The International Space Station: A Workplace in Space

written by: Tania Cowling • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 9/2/2016

Children have a natural curiosity about space and traveling to planets. Stimulate interest in learning about the International Space Station by presenting your little astronauts with activities that help them understand what it’s like to live and work in outer space.

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    This laboratory for scientists created in space is amazing. It was made for the scientists to do experiments and gain information about life in space. The best way to introduce this concept to your students is through this book. The International Space Station by Franklyn Branley is a science primer that includes the history and background information about this space station as well as a description of life in space.

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    The International Space Station (ISS) is one of the greatest collaborative efforts among nations of the world. It takes a team of experts to build and operate the largest manmade structure in space. There are many people working together on this project. Countries and nations involved are Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Russian Federation, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States.

    Activity: As you talk with your students about the countries involved, challenge them to find the places on a world map or globe.

    How large is the ISS? Explain that this space station is larger than a standard football field. It is 356 feet by 240 feet and weighs around 450 tons, which is 450 times the weight of an average-sized automobile.

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    Life inside the Space Station

    Just like inside a space shuttle, the ISS has controlled atmosphere and astronauts do not need special clothing. However, if they go outside the spacecraft there is no atmospheric pressure or oxygen, so they must wear a special space suit. This suit must protect them from flying debris, insulate them from extreme temperatures and provide oxygen to breathe.

    Activity: Your little space learners will enjoy making mock space suits (helmets, vests, and backpacks) from paper bags and other recycled materials. You can find loads of ideas and instructions on Pinterest.

    Life on the ISS is different from life on Earth. Everything in space must be anchored down, because things float due to gravity changes. The space station has a kitchen equipped with water, microwave ovens and refrigerators. Astronauts eat basic food off trays that are strapped to their laps. They also use some dehydrated food sources that are easy to prepare.

    Activity: For fun, pass out dried fruits to the kids for a snack. If available, use a dehydrator to make dried fruit showing the children how fresh apples, pineapple rings or apricots dry in a few days. You can also make veggie slices.

    The astronauts sleep in private cabins (just big enough for one person) inside a sleeping bag. They bathe, brush their teeth and use the bathroom like us, but with special equipment since gravity is an issue in space. Astronauts relax with music, reading books, and sending emails to family and friends, just like us, but looking outside a window to see Earth go by.

    The scientists must also exercise every day to keep their muscles and bones in shape. Remember that gravity is an issue and the body is weightless and floats.

    Activity: Invite the kids to pretend to be astronauts and exercise doing jumping jacks, push-ups, or running in place. Pretend to float. How does it feel to be weightless and light as a feather?

    View this very informative video of life in the space station. Your students will learn so much and enjoy this documentary.

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    More Activities to Do in Class: Space Station Model

    More Activities to Do in Class: Space Station Model 

    You will need:

    • 2 sturdy paper plates and 1 paper bowl (not plastic)
    • Tempera paints and paintbrush
    • Chenille sticks
    • Aluminum foil
    • Glue

    What to do:

    • Paint the two paper plates and one bowl. Think of using blue or grey (of course, any color will do). Let these plates dry thoroughly.
    • Attach the two plates rim-to-rim with glue. Then, glue the inverted bowl on top of the doubled plate. Let the glue dry.
    • The space station will need windows. Cut shapes (squares, rectangles and circles) from foil and glue these onto the bowl dome.
    • Add chenille sticks on top as an antenna.
      • Note: You can use a variety of square or rectangle boxes instead of plates.
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    Sing a Space Station Song

    My Space Station Song (Tune: Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush)

    This is the way we radio Earth,

    Radio Earth, radio Earth, radio Earth.

    This is the way we radio Earth,

    During our days in space.

    Make up other verses, such as –

    This is the way we float in space…

    This is the way we fasten our helmets…

    This is the way we eat our food…

    This is the way we exercise in space…

    This is the way we use telescopes…

    Think of more ideas with your students.

References

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