Teaching our kids while at home has been interesting, to say the least. And by “interesting,” I mean, really freakin’ hard. There is a reason I didn’t grow up and become a teacher. I have no patience and I can’t add in my head. Anything harder than division is outside of my skill set. That means when Mazzy asks me a fraction question, I have to shrug my shoulders and say, “Go ask your father.” Which I hate to do, because I want to prove to her that girls can be just as good at math and science as boys. The good news is, Mike usually can’t do it either, so Mazzy just thinks her parents are equally unintelligent.
During our first two weeks of quarantine, we were technically on Spring Break so there was no school and a lot of time to fill. Now we are on our third official week of distance learning. The first week was purely online assignments and then last week we started live classroom meetings. But the classroom meetings are short and there is still a lot of online assignments to complete and time to fill.
One thing I started to notice is that much of the focus is on reading, math, writing and social studies. Or, at least, those are the assignments that we need to turn into the teacher. Art, science, tech, music, etc. are listed as specials and more optional. So the specials tend to go on the back burner, which is sad, because these subjects are normally Mazzy and Harlow’s favorite parts of their school day.
This is one reason I was intrigued when Peanuts (yes, Charlie Brown and Snoopy) reached out to me about their online curriculum in partnership with NASA. Mazzy and Harlow both love science, particularly hands-on experiments and astronomy has always held a special place in my heart because my 4th grade teacher’s husband was an astronomer. She put a special emphasis on astronomy that year (she even organized a 9pm viewing of Mars in the school yard one night) and I’ve found later in life that I know way more facts about the planets than most people.
So what does the Peanuts gang have to do with Space?
Well, most people know that Apollo 11 was the rocket that landed on the moon in 1969. But you may not know that Apollo 10 was launched as a “dress rehearsal” earlier that year, and on that mission, NASA established Charlie Brown and Snoopy as the official call signs of the command module and lunar landing module. Since then, Peanuts has been an integral part of the U.S. space program and Charles Shulz (creator of Peanuts) is quoted as saying it was one of his proudest achievements.
Charlie Brown and Snoopy have also worked with the Young Minds Inspired to develop a whole curriculum that explores STEM, language arts, social studies and math for grades K-8. They have been providing worksheets, resources and educational activities, to schools for the past 50 years, and now they’ve made it all available for parents to use FOR FREE.
Just go to the Peanuts site and find the parent guides listed by subject and age. To get started, I chose the “Peanuts and Nasa” parent guide which highlights space exploration. I love that there was a version of the same activities for both K-2nd grade and 3-5th grade, so that Mazzy and Harlow could work side by side at age appropriate levels.
The Peanuts and Nasa curriculum included three activities— learning the fundamentals of the engineering process to design a lunar rover, creating a parachute that will keep a hard-boiled egg from breaking when it is dropped from a height of a few feet and using facts about Mars to keep a pretend journal of what your life there might be like there. Mazzy and Harlow got immediately excited about the parachute experiment which was called “On to Orion.” Before we got started we learned that the Orion is a new spacecraft currently being developed by Nasa that lands with parachutes.
Mazzy and Harlow did some Peanuts coloring sheets while I got all the listed supplies together (plus a few more things we had on hand)— coffee filters, cotton balls, tape, pipe cleaners, paper cups, tin foil, plastic bags, string, and of course, the hard boiled eggs.
Before they got started, Mazzy and Harlow both drew faces on their eggs to underscore the importance of a safe landing. Mazzy made a regular smiley face, while Harlow drew a panda face. Obviously. Then they got to work.
Mazzy focused on insulating her egg in an airtight spot so that it had no room to move when it landed. Harlow focused on creating super soft and thick padding to cushion the fall. Mazzy’s egg sat in a cup and Harlow’s egg sat on a bed of coffee filters and cotton balls.
Both Mazzy and Harlow used the plastic bags and string to make the parachute portion. And they both used cut-outs from their coloring sheets to decorate their spacecrafts.
I would be lying if I said there were no fights about copying. But, for the most part, everyone was just excited to see if their design was a success.
When they were done, they dropped their parachutes from the top of the kitchen counter.
Both survived!!! As a parent, all I can say is— PHEW.
But that wasn’t enough for them. They wanted to try dropping their eggs from the second floor balcony. I didn’t have much hope for Smiley and Panda Egg, this was homeschool and there were life lessons to be learned, so sure, why not?
Three…two…one…BLAST OFF!!! Or blast down, as the case may be…
As I suspected, Harlow’s Panda egg didn’t make it.
But Mazzy’s egg survived the fall! I think it survived at least a 10 foot drop!
Maybe I’ve got a future rocket scientist on my hands. And she can say she owes it all to Snoopy.
If you’d like to check out the school curriculum from Peanuts, click here. I think we might try “Mission to the Moon” next. I’m also super excited to show Mazzy and Harlow “Snoopy in Space” now available on AppleTV+. Charlie Brown and the gang were such an important part of my childhood and I’m happy for any opportunity to make them part of Mazzy and Harlow’s childhood too.