Build Your Own Space Mission is a delightful and educational online game for young students. It’s not easy to present advanced science in a way that young readers can understand, but the designers of this game have more than met the challenge!
The entire activity is designed with interactive animation that brings the user into the experience. The first step is choosing the clothing and appearance of the scientist. Students can make scientists who look like themselves, or go wild with blue hair and pink eyes.
Preparing For The Mission
They design a lab, choosing equipment and even painting the walls in a color they like. Next they can select either a rover or orbiting spacecraft, paint it, and choose equipment for it.
There are four destinations to choose from for either a rover or orbiter. After deciding where to go, students place their spacecraft in a rocket and conduct the launch.
Once they arrive, students can move their spacecraft, operate the equipment, and collect data. They see the data collected in the form of images from real space missions!
At the end of a mission, users can print or email a snapshot of their spacecraft at its destination along with a picture of the scientist or engineer in the lab they designed.
I’m impressed with how much science content has been put into this activity without getting technical. Even better, it is exciting and fun! Older elementary students could do this activity on their own, and younger students with a little supervision. Click the link at the foot of the page to begin your career as a rocket scientist.
More Space Games
Visit the Jet Propulsion Lab Education Index page and check out more space games! Among those for K-Grade 4, there is a virtual tour of Jet Propulsion Laboratory and its museum. Students choose a figure to represent themselves, and can talk to the tour guide!
Also on that page, explore Helping Earth. Besides showing how NASA studies the Earth, this activity invites students to leave their comments on ways to help. You can also click places on a map to read the comments from students all over the world!
There are also games for grade 5 and above. For example, NASA Kids Club has another whole page of resources and games. And you have to see Eyes On Earth 3D to believe it! Link is at the foot of this page.
Bonus: Build A Comet!
Susan Watanabe, Senior Internet Producer at Education Office at NASA/JPL, has kindly sent us a link to another great space education page. See the Build A Comet link at the foot of the page.
On the JPL Education website we also have a classroom activities page. Our new items are two Do-It-Yourself Space activities, how to make a comet and how to create a comet with dry ice. The second is a bit tougher than the first.
I checked out this link, and the first activity would be a great hands-on class project. Students use simple materials like styrofoam balls, bits of yarn, etc. to make a comet model from the inside out.
Handling the various materials helps young students grasp the layered and messy structure of a comet. When a class does this together, no two comets will be identical, another important fact about real comets.
The second activity would probably be done as a demonstration, since it involves dry ice, but students could assist. The result is a very small but real comet, a dirty ice ball shooting out jets of vapor!
Both activities are fun and clever ways to convey advanced concepts in an engaging and non-technical way. Thanks, Susan, for sharing these two activities and for all those other excellent space games!
Application needed: Web Browser
Level: Grades 1-6.
Build Your Own Space Mission link: CLICK HERE. Description: Online educational game for elementary students using animation and NASA photos.
JPL Education Index link: CLICK HERE Description: Page with links to MANY more educational space-related games for students from kindergarten upward.
Build A Comet link: CLICK HERE Description: Page with links to Jet Propulsion Lab Do It Yourself Space classroom activities.