Our first kids issue is about Outer Space. We’re including fun videos here that will help you learn about space! They are by the band They Might Be Giants, mostly from their album Here Comes Science, and Storybots, who are very educational and truly fabulous. We recommend both so strongly!

Max was so excited! This was the week that his class was going to learn about outer space!  The class had just come back in from recess, and he and his best friend had been pretending they were astronauts, playing basketball on the moon. Max wasn’t sure if he wanted to be an astronaut or a basketball player when he grew up, or maybe something else altogether, but he knew he was having fun. Normally he’d be sad to come in from recess, but he couldn’t wait for science class! His teacher walked to the front of the class room and smiled.

Class-for homework last night, you were supposed to lay on your back and look up at the sky. What did you see?

Ten hands shot up in the air. Nevaeh was called on and she said, The sky was dark, and there were a lot lot lot of stars. And a moon, which was just a sliver, and my mom pointed at something and said it was Venus but I thought it looked like a star too.

Very good Navaeh! Venus does look like a star! It’s usually brighter than the stars around it though. When we look up, we see more stars than we can count. And to us they look like tiny dots of light, but they are actually enormous and very hot-quite like our sun. It’s just that they are so far away that they seem small. You also saw the moon, which you said was a sliver. We call that a crescent moon-the moon has lots of phases, and after today, you’ll understand why!

When you laid on your back, it looked like the stars and the planets and even the sun revolve around the earth. But, it isn’t so. We are on earth, which is a planet, and all 8 planets revolve around the sun. The paths they follow are called their orbits.

She paused and picked up a round pan that had two lumps of modeling clay. She rolled both lumps of clay into circles-a large yellow globe she stuck in the center of the pan. The other, smaller lump was green and blue and Max realized it was the earth. The teacher placed the earth in the pan and started gently moving the pan so that the earth went in circles around the ìsunî. ìThis is how the earth orbits the sun. Other planets also orbit the sun, but at different distances. Closest to the sun is Mercury, then Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and finally, Neptune. There are other objects out there too, like dwarf planets Pluto and Eris, and many asteroids.

Max was so curious, and he raised his hand. ìBut what is the sun?

The teacher smiled at the question. The sun is the most important part of our solar system. Because it’s the center! The sun is very large, and very hot, and very far away. It’s so large you could fit one million earths inside of it. The sun is about 10,000 degrees! That’s so hot we can’t even imagine it. When it is 100 degrees, we sweat and complain about the heat. The sun is so hot that you’d burn up before you could even get close to it! And it’s very far away-almost 93 million miles away! Our earth is about 25,000 miles across, which means you could line up almost 4,000 earths between here and the sun. That’s a long, long way!

Max’s hand shot up again. But what is it made of?

Great question! It’s made of plasma, which is a 4th state of matter. Do you remember when we learned about solids, liquids and gasses? Plasma is a tricky 4th state, and it usually happens when it’s very hot. The sun is made of gasses like hydrogen and helium that get so hot they turn to plasma.

A girl across the room raised her hand with a great question Max hadn’t thought of. So then, is the moon also made of plasma? It shines bright like the sun!

The teacher smiled. Actually, no. The moon is mostly made of iron and rock, like the earth, but without oceans. The moon doesn’t make any light of its own. The moon actually reflects the light of the sun, like a giant mirror! Did you know that even though sometimes the moon looks like a sliver, like it did last night, it’s actually always round?

The class looked confused, but curious. The teacher explained, ìThe moon orbits the earth the same way the earth orbits the sun. So the moon is making circles around the earth as the earth is making circles around the sun. What we see is the part of the moon that is getting light from the sun. Most of the time, the earth is in between the sun and the moon, and what you see as the dark part of the moon is the part that is in shadow from the earth. As the moon orbits and the earth orbits, the parts of the moon that are in shadow change, and that makes the moon look different at different parts of the  month. The patterns repeat every 29.5 days.  Who is ready for snack time?

Oh, everyone was ready for snack time. The teacher handed out cookies to each table, and a paper plate. She explained the phases of the moon, saying that waxing meant getting bigger and waning meant getting smaller. Each table got to work with their paper plates and cookies, eating different parts of the cookie to leave the different shapes of the moon. This was the most delicious moon Max had ever eaten!

After they made the cookie moons, class was over. Max was so sad, because he had a lot of questions that he didnít even have time to ask! He went home and told his mom how he felt, and she suggested that he ask an astronaut! So he did-he found a website on line where kids could ask questions, and he was full of them.

What does it smell like in space?

What does space taste like?

Whatís it sound like?

How do you take a shower?

How do you use the bathroom?

How do you keep from floating away?

As he was typing out his questions, he was imagining himself strapping himself in and blasting off into outer space. He sniffed. He thought it smelled like a NASCAR race, but he couldn’t put his finger on why. The astronaut responded that it smelled like cooking meat and burning fuel-Max was satisfied because that’s just what a race smells like.

In his imagination, Max lifted his space helmet just enough to stick out his tongue and taste the air. He was surprised to see it tasted like raspberries! The astronaut typed that space was filled with ethyl formate which tasted like raspberries and smelled like rum!

Max was also surprised to discover that space was silent. There were no sounds to be heard at all. Even if he clapped his hands, or shouted out, no sound!! He was a little scared, but the astronaut explained that there is no air in space and air is required for sound. Max hadn’t known that!

The astronaut explained that living in space was tricky-when you take a shower, there is no gravity, so the water doesn’t fall to the ground and go down the drain like it does on earth. Instead, the water drops just float around. To fix this problem, space showers have doors, so the water stays in, and when you are done, a vacuum sucks the water down the drain. Using the bathroom is pretty similar-it requires a vacuum to keep things tidy!

Max thought the most important question of all was ìHow do you keep from floating away? The answer was so simple! They stay tied to their ship when they are in space.

Max was satisfied-he couldn’t think of any more questions, but he couldn’t wait to tell his school friends, and his teacher, what he had learned!

Learn about the Sun!

Learn about the Planets!

Learn about Shooting Stars!

Learn MORE about the Planets!

Learn about Stars!

Learn about Night.

Learn about the moon!

Learn MORE about the Sun!