Outer space holds a fascination for kids of all ages, and today's site picks include material for early elementary ages, as well as high schoolers (and beyond.) Before we start, here's bonus tip: NASA hosts a multitude of online chats with astronauts, astronomers and space engineers. For the monthly calendar, click on over to NASA's Schedule of Live Web Events.
Amazing Space is a set of seven Web-based educational activities (such as The Truth About Black Holes and Galaxies Galore) designed primarily for use in a classroom, but still appropriate for the self-guided Net surfer. "The Space Telescope Science Institute located in Baltimore, Maryland is responsible for the scientific operation of the Hubble Space Telescope. During the summer of 1996, the institute was set abuzz by the invasion of ten science teachers. These teachers teamed up with scientists and engineers from the institute to develop interactive lessons for the World Wide Web. In these pages you will find the lessons they developed."
With news about current space events and links to age-appropriate reference material (some of it at external sites), NASA Kids brings us space in a tidy package. Reference topics are divided into Space & Beyond, Rockets & Airplanes and Pioneers & Astronauts. Activities are listed under Projects & Games. Most of the site is easy to navigate, it is organized as a hierarchy of links, but I did reach a few dead ends where I needed to use my browser back button to find my way home.
Landing at SpaceKids.com is like being sent to play in outer space! Filled with feature stories, questions and answers, contests and interactive games for the elementary-age crowd, Space Kids is the younger sibling of Space.com. Middle-schoolers (and older) should visit Space.com (look for the link on the left-hand menu) for in-depth space news and science. "Our primary mission is the popularization of space. Our commitment is to a greater public understanding and enthusiasm about space and space-related subjects." And I'd say they are hitting their mark.
Space Place is the place for hands-on elementary-age space crafts ("Make your own jewel in the sky, a model Saturn decoration"), space activities ("Play our Intergalactic Adventures board game and be the first to explore a black hole and live to tell about it!") and space experiments ("Test a new spacecraft material.") You'll also find a smattering of fun space facts, but not exhaustive reference material.
If you have Shockwave and Java capabilities, fasten your seat belt for this exceptional virtual tour of our solar system. Starting in the cockpit, you have your choice of ten destinations: from the Sun to Pluto and Neptune. Upon arriving at each planet (or star), you can peruse the illustrated features (such as Exploration, Surface, and Interior) or explore the interactive component that might be a game or an explanatory animation. A tip of my astronaut's helmet to the student team that created this site for the 1999 ThinkQuest competition.