Road Trip Learning
I’ve heard it said of gifted kids that while they learn faster than typical kids, what they crave more than just rushing through the material is to go deeper in their learning. They want to know the “why” of everything, which can lead the family to some interesting discussions. Recently, it led us down a brand new trail for our science after a trip to Space Center Houston.
I’m a type A mom and a planner by heart. I like to map out the whole year in the summer and know where we are going. So then when my kids have their own interests, MY ideas get pushed aside in favor of their excitement. I gave up on a traditional science program a couple years ago in favor of following their interests and the opportunities around us. We have done a couple of unit studies like this nutrition one and used a Lego Education curriculum. We recently made a Coral Reef lapbook in preparation for a cruise excursion on our vacation. But when we got home they had a new idea to study and I was forced to chase after them instead of leading the way.
We didn’t get to the Coral Reef due to weather delays on our vacation which was disappointing. After a stop at Space Center Houston, they had an appetite to learn more about the history of Space Exploration and the Space Race.
- “What did the Russians think when we landed on the moon?”
- “What about the women?”
- “Are those astronauts still alive?”
These were just a few of the questions they started asking the moment we left Space Center Houston. I knew my plans to resume the Weather unit we interrupted for the Coral Reef study would be abandoned again as they wanted to answer all these questions and more. We would be home in 3 days and I started to make a plan for this exciting interest!
First Stop is a visit to the library!
I knew our first stop was the library. I checked the shelves of our home library and found a few books to get us started but not ones that would answer all the questions they had. Before we went, I listened to all the questions and topics they wanted to learn about to guide my book selections. I enlisted the help of the children’s librarian to know where to look for the best books for our topics of interest and then I set about choosing from the shelf.
I have a list in mind of which books my kids are more likely to open once we are home. We like DK encyclopedias and similar graphics-heavy, fact-rich, non-fiction. When selecting books for our Coral Reef study, I discovered the Science Comics series, which has been a hit. We also like to choose “Living books” to help the historical events come alive.
One of my favorite books we checked out was called Countdown 2979 Days to the Moon it tells the story of the NASA Space Program from President Kennedy’s challenge to land on the moon through the 11 Apollo missions it took to get there. It’s written in almost poetry and has beautiful illustrations. Each mission includes quotes from those involved and astronaut snapshots of those on the the mission. The vivid imagery used in the telling made it easy for us to imagine the moments when they first happened. We added it as a read aloud part way through our study, and I looked forward to reading it each day just as much as the kids.
Add Family Movie Night
Even as we were on the road we started thinking about what we could do once we got home to feed their interest. My husband and I immediately thought of several movies that would add to our learning and placed holds through our library app before we got home. Our movie list included October Sky, Hidden Figures, Apollo 13, and the Martian. Typically we spend our time doing other things so it was a big deal to schedule the movie nights as a family, including dinner and popcorn on the couch! We only ended up watching two of the four on our list but they left lasting impressions on all of us.
One of our children is more sensitive to intense or emotional films, and so we are very careful what we offer at home and are unable visit the move theater as a family. Often our sensitive child will go in and out of the room during a film. Everyone made it through Apollo 13 because, in part, they knew the ending. We could remind them that they knew what the history books said and that (spoiler alert!) the story had a happy ending. The Apollo 13 mission was official designated a “Successful Failure”. It failed to complete it’s mission but succeeded at returning home safely. The term Successful Failure has now entered the family vocabulary, one point for the growth mindset!
Sharing what we learned
They want to learn all the things and they are excited about the large pile of books we brought home. Without some structure I know my kids won’t make use of the feast of learning in front of them. I realized we could use this as an undercover introduction to report writing. One child was reading Science Comics: Rockets and sharing the cool facts he was reading with us so I had him write them down. He didn’t know he was practicing taking notes. These notes would turn into writing assignments as they turned their notes into paragraphs. As the number of topics increased we started collecting them to form a newspaper and “The Heren Herald” was born!
Download your copy: Heren Herald Space Edition.
Deciding to present what we were all learning in a newspaper gave us some other ways to share what we were learning and doing. We included a column of the timeline we created as we read. Using an idea I saw online, we made a timeline in the hallway of sticky notes. Whatever events in the books they read or we discussed was fair game to add. We added movie reviews of the ones we watched as a family and I even wrote my own article about the field trip that inspired it all. Dad reminded the kids the best part of the newspaper is the comics. He assigned each of them to draw one for the paper as well. I was able to be a perfectionist as I arranged it all on the computer using Microsoft Publisher as the kids submitted their articles to me by sharing them on Google Docs. The best part was that we had something really fun to share with others about all we learned in the last month.