To begin, we read a book called Imagination I by Erza Jack Keats. It is a story about a little boy who uses his imagination to help solve some problems he has been having with his friends. He builds a rocket-ship and, with imagination as his fuel, blasts off for adventures in outer space – soon, of course, all of his friends want to join in the adventure, too. The book is a good introduction to space because it shows different things the boy sees on his imaginary travel to space and makes a strong point that “all it takes is a little imagination”. Then we told the children that on the next school day we would begin making our own rocket-ships. We made sure to explain that our version would be smaller than the one in the book and that we wouldn't really have any fire (for blasting off, of course), just imagination! We also explained that this was a project that would take many days for everyone to complete. Even with those stipulations, we could tell they were excited about the prospect.
The next day, the planning began. We had some books about space out on the table for the children to look at and talk about. Then they drew their plans for what they wanted their rocket-ship to look like. We had them dictate description where needed and we asked them to list the materials they would need when it was time to build.
After everyone had made their plans, we began the construction part of the project. Before starting to build each child referred back to their original plan to refresh their memory - a good way to demonstrate the importance of both drawing and the written word! Then they began building. We had glue, colored tape, regular tape, all kinds of cardboard tubes and boxes, plain pieces of cardboard, aluminum foil. etc. We tried to be sure we had most of the things the children had listed they would need although we did make some substitues such as clear plastic instead of real glass and, again, no real fire.
This part of the project took a couple of days for each child to get their turn at building since the plans were quite detailed and the children all seemed to have a clear idea of what they wanted it to look like in the end. The parent-helpers did a great job of helping the children turn their plans into a reality!
The final stage of rocket building was getting to decorate the rocket-ship. We again referred to the original plans to see what materials to have available. We included crepe paper in shades of red, yellow and orange (for pretend fire), paint, glow-in-the-dark star stickers, chenille stems and astronaut stickers. After they finished their rocket-ships, we took a photo of them holding it and had them dictate a story about where their rocket would go and what it would see in Outer Space. Again, this step took a couple of days to complete but as you can see from the photos, everyone seemed quite pleased with the end result.
The rocket-ships are hanging up in our classroom now where we can all enjoy them before sending them home. It is amazing to see all the different styles, shapes and colors. It is safe to say that no two are alike. Within a fun and creative project the children also got lots of practice in literacy by making their plans and referring to them each step of the way and by telling the story of their rocket's adventures in space. Along the way they also got practice in some important life skills such as perseverance, patience, creativity, resourcefulness and flexible thinking (how can it look like fire without being the real thing?). All of that and lots of imagination!