Science projects for kids: space and astronomy

Teach kids science and astronomy enjoy some arts and crafts with our space-related science projects for the home or classroom.

Space and astronomy science projects for kids. Credit: Ian Nolan / Getty Images

Kids can learn a lot about science, space and astronomy through textbooks and teaching lessons, but it’s hard to beat practical, crafty science projects that really help children visualise tricky scientific concepts.

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Practical science projects can help teach kids valuable lessons like why a solar eclipse happens, the physics of launching a rocket or how the Sun appears to move across the sky throughout the course of a day.

Crafty science and astronomy projects are also great way of inspiring young minds and teaching kids the benefit of the scientific method.

They allow kids to get creative – and perhaps even a bit messy – but along the way parents, teachers and guardians can impart a bit of scientific knowledge and help cement concepts that might otherwise be difficult to explain.

Teach kids about an eclipse with a tennis ball and torch. Credit: Steve Marsh
Teach kids about an eclipse with a tennis ball and torch. Credit: Steve Marsh

We’ve selected some of our favourite astronomy, space and science projects for kids, which hopefully provide a productive and fulfilling way of spending a rainy bank holiday or long, lazy summer holidays.

They may even help inspire the next generation of scientists, astronomers, astrophysicists, rocket engineers and astronauts!

One thing we’ve learned from experience is that, once they get going, children and young scientists are an inquisitive bunch.

It pays to do a bit of research before attempting to an experiment demonstrating the mechanics of an eclipse or recreating the physical characteristics of the planets in the Solar System.

That way, you’ll be armed with facts and knowledge and hopefully able to field even the trickiest questions while the science experiment is underway.

Our science experiments for kids just require a few household objects and a bit of creativity. If you do end up trying any of our projects below, we’d love to hear from you! Get in touch and let us know how you get on by emailing contactus@skyatnightmagazine.com.

For more projects like these, try our simple astronomy experiments. And if you’re searching for practical stargazing advice for children, read our guide on how to get kids interested in astronomy or the best telescopes for kids.

1

Make a Solar System mobile

The finished DIY Solar System mobile for kids. Credit: Mary McIntyre
The finished DIY Solar System mobile for kids. Credit: Mary McIntyre

Our DIY Solar System mobile is a great arts and crafts project for kids and has plenty of learning opportunities. Teach your child how Earth is just one of 8 planets in the Solar System, and how they all orbit the Sun. Some planets are massive, others less massive. Some are scorching hot, others icy cold. Some are small and rocky, some are huge gas giants. Teach them about Saturn’s rings or the Great Red Spot on Jupiter.

And, at the end of the lesson, after a bit of cutting out and colouring in, you should have an attractive Solar System mobile that can be hung from their bedroom ceiling.

Read our complete guide to make a Solar System mobile.

2

Make a model of a comet

How make a model of a comet. Credit: Mary McIntyre
How make a model of a comet. Credit: Mary McIntyre

Comets really spark the imagination. There’s something so mysterious about these ancient celestial objects of rock and ice that orbit the Sun, projecting tails of water vapour into space as they are heated by our host star. Comets have fascinated human beings for millennia and have appeared throughout history, making this project another great learning opportunity for kids, as well as an afternoon spent doing arts and crafts.

If you feel the need to swot up on your comet science before beginning this project with your child, read our guide to comets.

Read our complete guide to making a comet model.

3

Make a stomp rocket launcher

The rocket ready for lift off: stamp hard on the bottle and your spacecraft will go flying. Image Credit: Jo Richardson
The rocket ready for lift off: stamp hard on the bottle and your spacecraft will go flying. Credit: Jo Richardson

Kids love designing and making rockets, and this activity will let them actually launch the rocket they’ve spent all afternoon lovingly creating and decorating. They’ll be in charge of launching their rocket into the sky by a powerful burst of air, water or fizzy tablet power. Plus, it’s a great project for getting kids interesting in the physical side of space science, inspiring the next generation of engineers and technicians. Perhaps you could tell them about the Space Shuttle or the Soyuz rocket throughout the project.

Our stomp rocket project also teaches mathematics and the importance of planning, design, measurement, and the physics behind what’s actually launching their rocket into the air.

Read our full guide on how to make a stomp rocket launcher.

4

Photograph the Sun with a pinhole camera

Creat a pinhole camera and track the path of the Sun across the sky
A six-month, solstice to solstice solargraph exposed from the UK during 2011. Image Credit:  Vince Sellars

Many kids will already know that the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but may not have considered the apparent path the Sun takes across the sky from dusk ’til dawn. A pinhole camera is a simple way of capturing a long exposure that will show the Sun’s path – known as the ecliptic – for however long you leave it. A few days work well, but if you have a bit more patience, a period of months will produce something even more spectacular.

Again, this is a fascinating science project that helps children understand a bit more about Earth’s orbit around the Sun, but it’s ultimately an astrophotography lesson, and as such will also produce something unique and artistic as an end result.

Read our complete guide on how to make a pinhole camera.

5

Make a portable sundial

How to make a sundial

Kids are always fascinated by sundials! Often seen as large, ornate structures in stately homes or public parks, they are a monument to humanity’s study of the celestial sphere and our attempt to better understand the world around us.

This is a fun project that’s simple to do and can be used to teach kids about the movement of the Sun across the sky, and how that can be used to determine what time of day it is. All you need is a printer, some card and some glue, but a sharp knife will also help here, so grown-up guidance is a must!

Read our full guide on how to make a sundial.

6

Star hop the night sky

Star-hopping is a great way of getting kids to learn their way around the night sky. Credit: Mark Garlick / Science Photo Library
Star-hopping is a great way of getting kids to learn their way around the night sky. Credit: Mark Garlick / Science Photo Library

Star-hopping is a great way to learn your way around the night sky and discover less familiar objects by using the old favourites as a jumping-off point. It’s a technique used by real astronomers to locate celestial objects that are less bright and therefore trickier to find.

A good star hop will begin at a bright, easy-to-spot star and guide you, step-by-step, to locating another star or deep-sky object. This naked-eye astronomy is perfect for kids and a great way of getting them to spend a bit more time outdoors, gazing up at the night sky.

Our guide at the link below will teach you the basics, and provides a few easy star hops to get you started.

Read our full guide on how to star hop.

7

Spot the International Space Station

David Duarte captured this transit of the International Space Station over Saint Vincent de Paul, France. David used a Canon EOS 60D DSLR camera and 17-55mm Tamron lens. Credit: David Duarte
David Duarte captured this transit of the International Space Station over Saint Vincent de Paul, France. David used a Canon EOS 60D DSLR camera and 17-55mm Tamron lens. Credit: David Duarte

Since the launch of the International Space Station, there has never been a time when every human being has been living on planet Earth. The ISS is an Earth-orbiting laboratory, and a symbol of our permanent presence in space. But did you know that you can see the International Space Station in the night sky, from Earth? All you need to know is when and where to look up.

This is a great way of getting kids interested in the night sky, but while you wait for the Space Station to pass overhead it’s also an opportunity to teach them about the important scientific work being done 400km above ground. Swot up on the history of the International Space Station or a few of the strangest things found on the ISS.

Read our full guide on how to see the International Space Station.

8

Become a citizen scientist

With a computer and an internet connection, kids can become citizen scientists and take part in the exploration of the cosmos. Credit: Tuan Tran / Getty Images
With a computer and an internet connection, kids can become citizen scientists and take part in the exploration of the cosmos. Credit: Tuan Tran / Getty Images

Outdoors astronomy isn’t ideal if it’s raining, or if you don’t have an outdoor space that’s conveniently accessible at night. This is where online learning and citizen science comes into play. Astronomers amass a lot of data. So much so that they need help deciphering it. Citizen science can help real astronomers discover the science of our Sun, find planets around other stars, or help classify galaxies. All you need is a computer and an internet connection.

Read our full guide to citizen science.

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Are you a teacher, parent or guardian who loves teaching children about space and astronomy? What are your favourite science projects? Let us know by emailing contactus@skyatnightmagazine.com.