Thursday, April 22, 2010

Munchkins International


In terms of getting children interested in and excited about space exploration, and how working in space benefits life on Earth, I'm happy to say that an examination of many space program websites yielded amazing resources for children. Unsurprising, since that's where interest in the next generation of technology originates -- but none of these kinds of materials existed during the initial space race, and interest among youngsters was much, much higher.

I spent the most time on ESA For Kids, noting that the European Space Agency has identical pages in German, English, French, Spanish, Dutch and Italian. Check out the missions, experimental aircraft, mission control across the pond, and the details of the European space port, it's quite exciting to see how far and wide the technology spread from only two programs in the 1950s!

European Space Agency
They also have sections for games, arts & crafts, and basic planetary science -- as does the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. JAXA is available in Thai, Indonesian and English... though any non-Japanese language pages are rather the "lite" versions of the available information.

There is one page in the JAXA family I would like to point out in particular, as I believe it's a beautiful demonstration of the increasing roles of all space programs around the globe.

Click on the International Space Station section, and drag the cursor over the many world flags, whereby each nation on the map will be highlighted and described in terms of "The role of the US," "The role of Russia," "The role of Canada," and so on.

Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency
The JAXA sites also have, in my opinion, the best-organized descriptions and pictures of life in space at the comprehension level that children might find fascinating -- covering the most commonly asked questions about food and clothing on the ISS, as well as weightlessness, bathing, sleeping, and working.

The Canadian Space Agency also has some delightful pages, available in both English and French, though it seems they've just recently noticed their youngsters might be interested in space... as the majority of the site is still under construction. Still, go click 'n' play with Dextre... the photography and animation are quite stunning! The CSA just love showing off that CanadArm! And they should.

Canadian Space Agency
Resources for children are oddly and conspicuously absent from Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency, though I heard that a children's textbook entitled "How To Become a Cosmonaut" was released this month by the MIR Foundation. If they hope to inspire their next generation of little ones about space exploration, hopefully more will follow!