Posted by: Bill Lord | November 10, 2010

Space the final frontier

CC Malenkov in Exile

I was speaking at a CPD session and chatted with a teacher about her forthcoming topic which she was calling “Space – the final frontier” which she was going to work on with her mixed Year Five and Six class. I put a few ideas together whilst we were chatting and made a request on Twitter to my PLN.

The idea of the plans is to give the teacher resources to deliver a cross curricular topic which is an extension of the traditional earth, moon and sun topic. I have sought to provide a mixture of texts, quality films, websites which can develop an exploration of space with a less traditional approach.

My first suggestion for a text is the wonderful M.P. Robertson’s ‘Seven Ways to catch the Moon‘ in which a young girl tries to catch the moon using tactics such as riding a shooting star. We suggested that the book could be used as a stimulus for Design Technology work which could be a stimulus for talk and writing. The children could design and build their own ways of catching the moon (this could be extended to testing them out if all of the models were built to the same scale.)

Other books which could be used are:
The Sea of Tranquility which is written by Mark Haddon (author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time) and illustrated by the incredible artist, Christian Birmingham (who has also produced illustrations of Wombat goes Walkabout, Windhover and other books).

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel which is actually the fantasy story of an airship which is hijacked by pirates. Although not about space travel it would work wonderfully as an ongoing text to be read to the class for pleasure and could be combined with Airman by Eoin Colfer.

Films to use

I thought of two short films to use which could be used to fire up the topic firstly the BFI film Baboon on the Moon the animated film by Christophe Duriez which is available on the collection of films to be used in the class, Starting Stories. It is available from the BFI education department but may be a little young for some classes. Details here.

My other suggestion is the lovely film, Rocketman,

which starts with a little girl opening up her favourite pop-up book and then moves into an animation which brings it to life. Again this book could be used as a direct stimulus for literacy but could also lead to exciting cross curricular work including building pop up books, making stop animation films or developing diagetic and non diagetic sound to accompany the film.

One of my Twitter PLN Carl James made the excellent suggestion of using Star Wars as a way into the topic and to fire children up. He wondered whether it would be better to use the animated version Clone Wars. Personally I think that this is an excellent idea as they are well constructed stories as well as being visually engaging.

It did occur to me that another possibility could be The Lego Star Wars animations. Lego is a wonderful construction system which could engage reluctant learners. Lego Star Wars


NASA Education website

Next I thought about other ways of engaging young learners and remembered some I did a few years ago using the education section of the NASA website. There are some excellent resources which we used including their resources supporting work on the Moon and Mars.

I then received a tweet from Neil Adam reminding of the twitter streams written by NASA astronauts which would definitely bring going into space to real life for the children.

It is important when using Twitter in class to ensure that children are fully aware of e-safety implications and to have a discussion with school management before allowing children to view it. Schools should not be squeamish about using this social networking site as long as it done with full awareness of how to ensure that the children are trained in its use.

Astro Mike

Astro Mike is Mike Massimino an engineer and NASA astronaut who is is a veteran of two Space Shuttle missions, including the historic final Hubble Space Telescope  repair mission.

Mike keeps his followers up to date with his work as an Astronaut.

Other tweeps to follow are the Johnson Space Center (@NASA_Johnson) The National Space Center is “the lead center for space shuttle and International Space Station activities, and is home of the Mission Control Center and NASA astronaut corps.” The tweets are contributed to by interns in the astronaut corps and other Space centres as well as Johnson. It is regularly updated and will often include hyperlinks to further information.

The NASA_Astronauts twitter stream is a place to access all of the tweets by all NASA astronauts. This is well worth accessing as it contains such a mix of information and insight.

The Moon

What shape is the Moon?

I researched several websites and was lucky enough to have some suggestions from Tom Sale and Dawn Hallybone for which I am really grateful. These included some brilliant resources for study of the moon including What Shape is the Moon? from BGFL. Another such site is Sun, Earth and Moon from Simple Science.

The resource is one of those which has been developed to support knowledge acquisition of science facts around the QCA schemes of work. This is something of which we need to be aware but I also thought that teachers would already have many of these so thought of things which might be slightly different or promote work in a different way.

We choose the moon

The first site I was recommended was We choose the Moon which came from Ian Pratt who tweets as @sciencelabman. It is a visually engaging site which celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the Lunar Landings and is divided into 11 different stages using animations, archival photos, simulations, video and audio from mission control. The user can use the mission tracker to move through the mission at their own pace.

This set me to thinking that we were assuming that children would accept the moon landings without question but there may well be children who were aware of the claims that the moon landings were a hoax. This is something which has entered popular culture through the internet and films such as Capricorn One.

This set me to thinking that we were assuming that children would accept the moon landings without question but there may well be children who were aware of the claims that the moon landings were a hoax. This is something which has entered popular culture through the internet and films such as Capricorn One. So we present the children with the challenge of proving or disproving that the moon landings actually took place. They could think about the points made by conspiracy theorists and use images to prove or counter them. IWB software will massively support this.

The points made by people claiming that the landings never took place are explore on the How Stuff Works website They take each point and rebuff them.

  1. There are no stars in the background
  2. There is a rock in one of the images which appears to have the letter C imprinted on it
  3. There are shadows of differing lengths
  4. The American flag appears to flap in the breeze
  5. Technology was not sufficiently developed to keep the astronauts alive on the moon
  6. The landing module weighed 17 tons but left no impression in the sand whilst the astronauts left footprints behind
  7. The moons brought back from the moon are identical to those collected in Antarctica
  8. When the landing module took off from the moon there weren’t any visible flames.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter whether you or the children believe whether the moon landings were real or faked as long as it provides the stimulus for a lively debate.

The children could use a range of images to annotate with evidence to prove their point. This could lead to the work being presented in a range of ways from simple word documents, homemade books, posters, annotated images, film presentations using Photostory, MovieMaker or similar applications.

Resources to support this could include this article on the conspiracy from the Daily Telegraph and this from The National Geographic debunking ‘myths ‘.

There could also be some mileage in looking at some of the testimonies cited on conspiracy sites to share with children. They could be used as a prompt for discussions or for writing.

One example is taken from the site UFOs-aliens

The residents of Honeysuckle Creek, Australia, actually saw a different broadcast to the rest of the World. Just shortly before Armstrong stepped onto the Moons surface, a change could be seen where the picture goes from a stark black to a brighter picture. Honeysuckle Creek stayed with the picture and although the voice transmissions were broadcast from Goldstone, the actual film footage was broadcast from Australia. As Una watched Armstrong walking on the surface of the Moon she spotted a Coke bottle that was kicked in the right hand side of the picture. This was in the early hours of the morning and she phoned her friends to see if they had seen the same thing, unfortunately they had missed it but were going to watch the rebroadcast the next day. Needless to say, the footage had been edited and the offending Coke bottle had been cut out of the film. But several other viewers had seen the bottle and many articles appeared in The West Australian newspaper.

Imagesto support this work

Taken from
If anyone is not aware of Panoramas then they should check it out. It is an online collection of 360 degree panoramic photographs of many different places and events some including audio. I have used several as a stimulus for writing with classes. Julian Wood (@ideas_factory) made me aware of their panoramic photographs of the Apollo lunar landings. The children can move the images and pan round a full circle and can select from each of the Apollo Lunar landing missions. Here are some examples:

Apollo 11 – Lunar landing module with audio

Apollo 14 with audio

Apollo 17 – astronaut walking on the moon



I returned to less controversial thoughts after this and thought about activities which could fire up the children’s excitement. In my last job we looked to get the Year 6s (all 100 of them) involved in something which would be enjoyable, slightly competitive and bring about learning in the weeks after their SAT tests and a colleague talked about a school which had built rockets with the children. This was brilliant as the children researched the best design, the best angle to use and then had to adjust their thoughts as they saw competitor rockets fare better or worse than they had thought!

Boing Boing image (

The rockets work by half filling a 2 litre bottle with water and then using a foot pump to push air into it until the air pressure is so great that the rocket takes off. Sinclair MacKenzie (@mrmackenzie) recommended rokits which are available from

I tweeted about this and received messages from Dawn Hallybone, Nicky Newbury and Jen Martindale who all taught me about the wonders of building rockets out of camera fil canisters, a small amount of water and alka seltzers. This is new to me so I found this link to Cool Science which shows you how to do it. It really does look fantastic!!

UltimatelyI would love to see children making rockets like the image on the left.


I also found these websites which could be very useful.

NGfL Earth and Beyond

The Solar System

BBC Explore the Solar System site

Google Sky

The wonderful NASA collection of images of planets is well worth visiting.

NASA Planet image collection

Stellarium – Stellarium is a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. You will need to download on to your laptop or PC.



Launch of the Space Shuttle from inside the cockpit (I love the high fives t 50 miles above the earth!)

A space shuttle landing

NASA’s first ever space walk

Today (16th November 2010) Brainpop shared this photo from their twitter account (@brainpop_uk)

Tracy Caldwell Dyson


  1. What a fantastic post Bill and one that will no doubt prove to be a wonderful resource for many teachers, so much so that I want to do my own ‘Space, the final frontier’ topic.

  2. Wow, that’s a pretty comprehensive post on space resources! As a maths teacher I don’t get to teach full topics on space, but I try to slot references in whenever I can, and I’m looking in to starting an extra-curricular astronomy club with a colleague.

    I write a blog that I use to answer space related questions; I’d love to get some questions from school children that I could get my teeth into. They often ask questions that adults just don’t think of! The blog’s called Blogstronomy and it’s here: (just in case you, y’know, feel like passing it on or anything… ;-))

  3. Hi Bill,

    What a fantastic post. I find the whole of this subject fascinating. Still find it hard to believe that humans have actually walked on the moon.

    My favourite space film has to be Apollo 13. A fantastic story of what can be achieved in the face of disaster. If you get the DVD, try listening to the commentary by Jim Lovell while watching the movie. It’s amazing how true to the story the director stayed. In fact I remember an interview with Tom Hanks where he said that he would not have done it if the story was changed at all.

    My daughter is very interested in this sort of thing and just recently we have enjoyed watching the ISS go over on clear nights. Great when you can get alerts of when it will be passing through Twitter.

    On the subject of the ISS, this photo that was taken during the partial eclipse was fantastic.

  4. […] Space the Final Frontier – A topic suitable for KS2 on Space from Stars Wars to Hoax Moon Landings […]

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