Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing

By Amelia Chapman

This summer’s 50th anniversary of humans first setting foot on the Moon is a celebration of exploration, teamwork, innovation, imagination, STEM, and discovery—topics embraced by children’s museums every day. Use NASA’s free resources to join in the anniversary excitement and build awareness of your year-round opportunities!

Be Mission Control

Establish your museum as a place the community can gather to celebrate the anniversary, and learn for the future. Invite local media to do their anniversary stories from your galleries or events, offer to do on-air science demos like making craters, and share experiments people can try at home. Be sure to submit your events to NASA’s anniversary map and calendar!

Looking for some easy ways to add “space” to your galleries? Hang up NASA posters; set a screen to show beautiful ViewSpace interactives and videos; turn your maker space into a rover design center; create a scale model of our Solar System; or put a 3D printer to work. You can also use an empty wall to display adults’ memories of the Moon landing and kids’ visions for future exploration—and let them know about this art contest (to enter, register by June 1 and submit artwork by June 15)!

Engage the Whole Crew

Team up with a local history department to host an oral history day where kids interview relatives about their Moon landing memories. Involve the whole community and create a time capsule to open fifty years in the future. Use the Night Sky Network to connect with local astronomy clubs that can bring telescopes, hands-on demos and enthusiastic astronomers to your site. Invite a Solar System Ambassador to share the latest science and discoveries of NASA’s missions.

Celebrate teamwork with all-ages activities like this Trip to Mars game that gives everyone a job to do. Challenge your summer campers to build a space colony or put on a Space School Musical. Point families to NASA Space Place, a great place for them to keep learning together.

Launch a Celebration

Have a Moon-filled day of fun! Hide and Seek Moon is great for young learners; after learning about why the Moon seems to change shape, families can work together to make a Moon phases calendar and calculator. Check out this list of more lunar fun from STAR_Net and pre-k astronomy activities from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Plan ahead for next time and learn how to borrow actual lunar and meteorite samples from NASA for hands-on teaching.

Saturday, July 20 is the day of the landing, but that’s not the only event or day to celebrate! On July 16, be part of the Global Rocket Launch Challenge with rocket activities for all ages. Or, celebrate the crew’s safe return to our home planet on July 24 with activities such as making observations that help scientists study the Earth.

Use the Momentum!

The Apollo anniversaries aren’t just a chance to look back. NASA’s upcoming Moon to Mars program will have humans returning to the Moon as a gateway forward to Mars. Celebrate the Red Planet by printing out some coloring sheets and panoramic images, or screening these fun Mars in a Minute videos.

Make plans for October’s International Observe the Moon Night and April 22, 2020 – the 50th anniversary of Earth Day! After all, it’s  no mere coincidence Earth Day began during the Apollo missions—they let us see our home planet in a new way. Print out some Apollo-Earth Day posters here.

Finally, become part of NASA’s Museum Alliance, a community of practice providing professional development and NASA resources to informal educators who want to use the excitement of space exploration and scientific discovery to inspire new generations.

Amelia Chapman is an education program specialist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Photo via NASA Langley.

Eclipnics, Planet Painting, and Other Ways to Celebrate the Total Solar Eclipse

This August holds an exciting surprise for children (and most adults!) across America: a total solar eclipse! August 21st will mark the first total solar eclipse to occur all across the continental United States since 1918.

Leading up to and during the eclipse, children’s museums across the country are planning programs to excite young visitors’ imaginations and help them learn about science and astronomy.

Here are a few ways ACM member museums plan to help visitors get the most out of eclipse day.

  • The Children’s Museum of the Upstate in Greenville, SC won the astronomical lottery. They’ll be inside the “path of totality” — the area where viewers will see a total rather than partial eclipse of the sun! The museum plans to hand out eclipse shades to protect viewers’ eyes and host a plethora of space-related programs, including moon phase activities, an eclipse-themed story time, and activities about women in astronomy. Even before the big day, guests can visit museum programs to learn about coronas, safe viewing practices, and more.

Is your museum in “the path of totality”? Find out with this interactive map from NASA. If the answer is no, that’s okay! Your location will likely still experience a partial eclipse. Here’s how children’s museums outside the path are celebrating:

  • Sciencenter in Ithaca, NY, is live-streaming NASA’s five-hour long broadcast of the eclipse as it moves across the U.S. What better way to give visitors the full experience?
  • Stepping Stones Museum for Children, in Norwalk, CT, also plans to show the livestream. Plus, visitors will get to decorate their own unique pair of eclipse glasses!
  • Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, CA, is getting ahead of the game. Their “Solar Eclipse – 2017” planetarium show is already running, preparing guests to get the most out of the event. The show takes viewers through our solar system to understand how and why solar eclipses happen.
  • Children’s Museum of Atlanta is hosting a day full of eclipse-themed activities, from a glow-in-the-dark dance party, to a “Super Spectacular Science Show,” to an eclipse model explained by a STEM educator.
  • Portland Children’s Museum is throwing their own Solar Eclipse Viewing Party, including fun crafts like a solar system chalk drawing project, “planet painting,” creating a pinhole camera, and a rocket launch!
  • The Museum of Discovery, in Little Rock, AK, has another fun approach: they’re planning an “eclipnic” — a picnic lunch leading up to the big event! Guests are invited to bring a lunch and enjoy some hands-on fun while learning about the science behind the eclipse.

In case you need a little inspiration, here are a few activities children’s museums across the country are planning:

  • Free shaded glasses for viewing the eclipse. Safety first, so make sure to hand out shades and instruct your visitors on safe viewing practices! You can find a list of reputable vendors here.
  • Planetarium shows. A planetarium show is an amazing way to show guests what to expect from the solar eclipse. Running a show before the big day helps explain science concepts so the actual event makes more sense to all.
  • Scientific demonstrations. Build a solar system mobile, or model the science behind an eclipse with common objects like hula hoops!
  • Pinhole cameras. These simply constructed cameras provide a safe and scientifically fascinating way to view an eclipse.
  • Activities for younger children. Don’t forget to include fun crafts for younger viewers! This could include tasks like decorating glasses, painting space-themed pictures, or making sun or moon decorations.

How is your museum celebrating the 2017 total solar eclipse?

Susannah Brister is Office Manager at the Associations of Children’s Museums (ACM). Follow ACM on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.