Cultivate Wonder

Exploring Science with Children

Space, Rockets & Gravity


The morning of this storytime, Wednesday, March 11 at 11:30 a.m., I checked the NASA site looking for a good video clip to show to accompany the books I had chosen. Turns out, NASA was conducting a solid rocket booster test, broadcast live, at 11:30 a.m.! I couldn’t believe my luck! So I pulled up the link on the new SmartBoard, Internet was working beautifully, and had the NASA TV live broadcast playing as children entered the room (for once I opened the doors a bit early!) And it turns out that a solid rocket booster test is a pretty impressive thing to see — lots of fire and smoke! And it all began with a real countdown (10-9-8 . . .) and many of the children joined in. You can watch the replay here: and read more about it on the NASA site.

After this opening, we talked about rockets and travelling to space. I asked if anyone had ever been to Mars or the moon, and this group knew a surprising amount about space (no air, robots have been to Mars, but not people).gravity-cover

I read Jason Chin’s Gravity (Roaring Brook, 2014) and they were totally engrossed by the illustrations.

Then I conducted a mini-rocket launch (the reliable Alka-Seltzer in a film caster type), complete with safety glasses and countdown. After putting the glasses away, we watched/read Eight Days Gone by Linda McReynolds (Charlesbridge, 2012) in Tumblebook format.

eight days

I also showed them the physical book afterwards and we talked about some of the images and travelling to the moon. I showed them the two-page spread below, and asked them what the blue green object was.


They all responded with “the earth!” So I asked, but isn’t the earth round? To which one said, “it’s night on the other part” and another said “it’s there — see how you can’t see any stars where the earth is?” I was amazed at how closely they were looking and observing and thinking about things.

This book is featured on RIF’s Multicultural STEAM Booklist for 2012-13 and their website offers suggested activities and handouts for parents.

Next, we danced and moved to “Rocketship Run” by Laurie Berkner, which featured even more counting backwards.

For the activity, kids made their own paper rockets, powering them with a straw.




3,2,1 Blast Off!

3,2,1…Blast off!  A while back, when our Wonderworks program was still known as STEM Storytime, we explored the theme of rocket ship science, and we had (no pun intended) a blast.

As always, we began with our Energy song from Nancy Stewart’s Sing a Song of Science album.

For our non fiction title, we shared the Rookie Read-About Science book, Liftoff!, by Carmen Bredeson.  This book uses simple text and realistic images to clearly depict the journey of a space shuttle as it is moved to the launch pad and blasted off into space.


After discussing what we learned in our book, we watched a brief YouTube video on our iPad of a space shuttle launching into space.

Between books, we like to do a song, and Laurie Berkner’s Rocketship Run song was perfect for this week’s theme.  We all pretended to be rocket ships, following along with the actions of the song, blasting off into space, exploring the stars, sun, and moon and finally landing back on earth to listen to our next story.

Our picture book selection was Oliver Who Would Not Sleep, by Mara Bergman, a sweet tale about a little boy whose imagination flies him in a rocket ship to Mars.


For the activity portion of our storytime, we used old film containers, H2O and Alka Seltzer tablets to make high-shooting rockets.

Alka Seltzer Rockets

We sat far back and waited eagerly as the water dissolved tablet in the small plastic canister, creating many tiny air bubbles until suddenly….POP! the air bubbles forced the lid off the canister and blew our little rocket into the air!

alka selter

In addition to Alka Seltzer rockets, we also created balloon rockets, using yarn, a balloon, tape and a drinking straw.

Balloon Rockets

We experimented by raising and lowering the piece of yarn and by adding more and less air to the balloon. We made predictions about what we though would happen to the speed of the balloon each time we did something different.

balloon rocket

For our final song/activity, we did a version of Ring Around a Rosie, called Ring Around a Rocket Ship.

Ring around a rocket ship (all join hands in a circle)
Reach up and grab a star
(drop hands and reach up)
Star dust star dust
(sprinkle star dust)                                                                                                                                                                                  Fall where you are

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