Have an Astronaut Read Your Child a Book….FROM SPACE!
Every child loves to be read to. It’s a bedtime routine staple that has been encouraged by teachers and educational professionals for generations, with the researched benefits of doing so appearing to be almost endless. Not only is it vital for developing literacy, a good vocabulary and a vivid imagination it also allows small children to dream big, to be inspired and to fall in love with the many characters and stories that fill the well-worn pages of their books. But what if story time could be just that little bit more exciting? What if it wasn’t only mum and dad that sat next to them in bed at night and read a sweet tale but also a real-life astronaut too? And what if that astronaut was not on their bed but reading their story to them from the confines of the international space station as it actually orbits the Earth? Well, thanks to the Global Space Education Foundation Story Time From Space is now a real thing, and it is every bit as inspiring and engaging as it sounds.
Story Time….FROM SPACE
Born from the desire to introduce and encourage STEM to children from the youngest of ages, Story Time From Space is a brilliant initiative dreamed up by educator Patricia Tribe and astronaut Alvin Drew. While the idea behind it may be simple – film real astronauts as they gently float within their space station and read a science-themed children’s book to a camera, the resulting footage is actually anything but.
These videos are not only intriguing but also a little mesmerising, easily succeeding in their mission to inspire and engage young minds in their content. In each clip, you are introduced to an astronaut who will be reading a book to the camera but as soon as the video cuts to them it is immediately apparent that this is going to be different to anything your child may have seen before. While the astronaut introduces and reads the story, (as you or I may), it is all the incredible things going on in the background that will instantly draw the audience (both young and old) in. This could be the complex wiring and electrical equipment that covers the walls around them or the fact that they are weightless and suspended in mid-air as they read. It may also be the comical way their long hair floats out and away from them as though submerged in water or possibly the fact that, behind them, through a window, you can see Earth. The idea that we are sitting on that small globe in the distance is quite surreal and the idea that someone is in the International Space Station, that your kids can view from earth is quite extraordinary!
The videos are filmed by the astronauts and then edited prior to being uploaded and include cutaway close-up shots of the book’s illustrated pages as well. Some of these include small animated sections or pans to help illustrate the tale. On top of this, at the end of some videos, we learn a little more about the featured astronaut. For instance, at the end of the video reading of Rosie Reverie, Engineer we learn all about our astronaut reader, Kate Rubins, who has completed two spacewalks and was the first to sequence DNA in space. Aside from being science-themed, the chosen books have a wide range of reading levels (though all can be read in 15 minutes or less) and cover a range of STEM topics, from physics to engineering to biology.
“Mum, I have a question.”
There are so many obvious reasons why we love this initiative. Aside from the fact it is a super cool alternative to hearing a bedtime story it also allows for so much more learning to happen as well. So far, my children and I have watched four of these videos. Each one a couple of times (at least). With ages ranging from 3 to 8, the level of understanding as to where the astronauts are, what they are doing, why they are doing it and how it is that we are able to watch them varies greatly and I find that at numerous times throughout the video I need to pause it so that we can explore some of their questions.
How to make the most of the space read
Do a watch-through first, to hear the story uninterrupted. Then, watch it through again and this time stop to answer anything they want to know. And believe me, there are A LOT of questions! Why are they floating? Where are they now? How does it fly? Can I do that too? How do I become an astronaut? What is an engineer? Why do they wear those suits and masks? Is that Earth behind them???
Even more awesome is the fact that they feature astronauts of different ages, gender and nationality – which is a fantastic way to demonstrate to children that regardless of who you are you or where you come from you really can achieve anything you put your mind to. For example, Japanese engineer and JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata reads Max Goes to the International Space Station in Japanese for the program. This is highlighted again through the stories that are read which are all science-related with characters that differ greatly too.
Who is going to enjoy this?
Regardless of your child’s age or interests, we can guarantee they will love these readings and, although not intended to completely replace the one-on-one parent-child reading time, these are a great option for mixing things up and adding a little excitement to the usual routine every now and then. With new books and recordings being added regularly be sure to keep an eye on new ones on the site as they come in!
Science Time From Space
With all the popularity and interest they have already attracted through Story Time From Space, the team have now also begun creating actual science experiments, which will be filmed and performed by the astronauts as well. Science Time From Space has been designed to complement the concepts found within the selected children’s books and the (so far) nine experiments cover key concepts in the required science curriculum. These include heat transfer, light, buoyancy, surface tension/meniscus, orbit, freefall, the effect of gravity on humans, balance, and pendulums.
I think there is little doubt that this FREE program is one that all children and educators should be made aware of. Anything that encourages our children to ask questions, that peaks their curiosity, that inspires them with possibilities and that delights them as well should be embraced and shared with as many people as possible. What better way to introduce STEM to our children too, than via the wonderful real world of storytelling from space?