Playground planet

Make the world of space accessible to children by creating a planet in your playground, say Ginny and Nicky of Morris and Simmons Education. Combine familiar resources with inventive ideas and watch children’s enthusiasm soar.

Creating a planet surface

Choose an area in the school grounds that lends itself to creating a planet landscape, real or imaginary. Use materials to create different terrains such as coloured sand or sawdust, different colours of material, large and small stone or rocks and water. Create uneven surfaces, slopes and different textures by adding pillows, cushions and beanbags under material and covering large and small play equipment to form mountains. Think about the colour theme of the planet such as pattern, shades of one colour, or creating a multi-coloured effect. Show the children images of the Martian landscape, such as the one on the A3 poster or others from the internet. How might your playground planet be similar or different? What will your planet be called?

Space vehicles

Source as many different types of remote control vehicle as possible. Ask around school or ask the children to bring them in from home. These could include cars, trucks, aeroplanes and helicopters, which can then be transported to the planet for exploration purposes. This would also lend itself to children designing and making their own remote control vehicles from special construction kits such as Lego or by adding special space features to Roamers, Bee Bots or other floor robots already in school. The children could learn to programme the robots to investigate different parts of the planet terrain.

Exploring the planet’s surface

Before the children start exploring they could research how much power their vehicle has and how long it will last on the planet’s surface. For example, charge the vehicle for two, five or ten minutes. How much power does it have then? How long will this last? How will they make sure that their vehicle does not get stuck on the planet without any power? Challenge the children to investigate the planet’s surface. Encourage them to think about the information they want to collect and how they are going to go about it.

Get ready for blast off…

  1. Use grid references to locate a particular part of the planet.
  2. Find out which surface the vehicle moves across most effectively.
  3. Use a map around the planet’s surface.
  4. Design a modification to the vehicle so that it can carry equipment.
  5. Which vehicle can get from A to B the fastest?
  6. Are there different routes to get from one side to the other? Which is the quickest? Which is the safest? How do you know?
  7. Write a fact card, article or blog about investigations on the planet.
  8. Use the aerial vehicles to investigate the safest landing place.
  9. Take aerial photos of the planet to mark and record features and findings.
  10. Follow a set route around the planet marked out with flags. Which vehicle can complete the course the quickest?


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