It was July 20, 1969 at 20:17 UTC when the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle touched down on the surface of the Moon. The whole world watched as the first steps were taken, an inspirational moment for what mankind was capable of.
Whether you remember the Apollo 11 mission or have only seen pictures, the feat of landing on the moon remains awe-inspiring. Join us in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing with a jam-packed list below of STEM resources, videos, and engineering design challenges that teach the history along with important STEM skills.
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Did you know NASA is planning to return to the Moon? NASA’s lunar exploration plans are based on a two-phase approach: the first is focused on speed – landing on the Moon by 2024 – while the second will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028. These missions will set the stage to send astronauts to Mars! What an exciting time for space exploration! For more information about NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration plans, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/moontomars
Set the stage for kids to understand the gravity (or microgravity 😉) of the Apollo program with videos that document the history. Here are a few of our favorites:
Back To The Moon For Good | Planetarium Show Narrated by Tim Allen | Google Lunar XPRIZE (24:49)
NASA | Tour of the Moon (4:39)
E4U3 Tertiary Education Honorable Mention: Colonizing the Moon (2:07)
Experience the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing with footage from that actual event
Become an Apollo Astronaut, Engineer, and Scientist!
Check out our favorite Moon STEM activities to build important skills needed by astronauts and engineers that were part of the Apollo program or NASA’s return to the Moon.
Lunar Crater Challenge- Students manipulate the forces of motion to place a ball in a cup at the center of a 6 foot diameter circle without entering the circle. A great connection to space exploration, this engineering design challenge represents placing a NASA rover into the middle of the Apollo lunar crater to explore it as a potential human colony site. View the full challenge here.
Space Lander Challenge- Student teams build a lander to keep two marshmallow "aliens" inside a cup as it is dropped from various heights. Using straws, index cards, and mini marshmallows, students apply concepts of shock-absorption, drag forces, and stability, to create and test their designs. Check out this popular activity here!
Eat astronaut ice cream - Growing up as an aspiring astronaut, astronaut ice cream has been something I held in high esteem. I have used it as door prizes for events and special treats in my classes. I was devastated to learn that it was never actually eaten by an astronaut in space! Then why is it sold as such, even in the NASA gift shop?!? Here is the how and the why I continue to use it in space education:
It is freeze-dried which is how astronauts did receive their food back in the Gemini, Mercury, and some in the Apollo days. Can you imagine how much the Astronauts yearned for food with flavor and the right textures again?
Discuss why it can’t be eaten in space. Astronaut ice cream is incredibly crumbly which is a danger to all the controls as the crumbs float around in micro gravity!
Explain what Astronauts DO eat in space. Food has to be approved by nutritionists, packaged for long term storage, and eaten without making a mess! The Apollo program was the first to have hot water to help with meal prep, and since then, astronauts have been pleased to get refrigerators and even freezers for their stay in space. Do they eat ice cream? Yep, but they only eat the kind you get from the freezer in your local grocery store!
Also good to know— astronauts eat tacos! My kids love watching the video of the process of making and eating a taco in space.
Moon maze - Have you used Sphero robots? If you’ve followed us for long, you know we love using them at home, in the classroom, and even at STEM Family Nights. Introduce Sphero robotics with a moon themed challenge! The mission: students must become engineers to send commands to rovers on the moon to navigate around the craters. Use our free SPRK Maze Challenge to complete the mission.
Crater Catapults and Moon Making STEM Challenges- Launch into a deep study of space rocks and craters that is sure to leave a lasting impact! In this comprehensive lesson, students use what they learn about meteors and craters to build a catapult that launches “research equipment” using the engineering design process. Then, students create their own satellite with craters like our own Moon. Also included are explanations of the types of craters, famous Earth craters, and the different kinds of rocks that originate from outer space!
Moon Trivia - Need to brush up on your moon facts? We have you covered. Grab our Moon Trivia slides in our free resources library and have your students compete in teams for the highest score! Gain access to the free resource library by subscribing to our newsletter in the footer of this page.
Reflective Moon - See picture below for this activity. You will need a flashlight, disposable cups, and craft mirrors. Discuss how the moon does not shine on its own, but instead reflects the Sun’s light. Place one cup upside down on the floor or table and the flashlight about 1 foot to the side pointing towards the cup at a 45 degree angle. Then use the other cups with mirrors taped to them to make the light reflect onto the first cup. Add cups without mirrors around the area to make the challenge more difficult. For added fun, use a blacklight instead of a regular flashlight and use neon paper or tape to mark the first cup where the light should reflect.
Read-alouds are one of my favorite ways to introduce a subject to my kids and engage them in the historical background. Here are some of my favorite books relating to the Moon.
Can’t get enough of the Moon? Explore these great websites and activities to extend the learning and celebration of our space history.
NASA activity for Designing a Mission to Live and Work on the Moon
See the Moon in 3D with real satellite images, tours of lunar landing sites narrated by Apollo astronauts, 3D models of rovers and landers, 360-degree photo panoramas, and rare TV footage of the Apollo missions.
Moon map and facts for kids
For even more space themed STEM activities, visit our post – Top 10 STEM Space Activities!
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